Is It 2008 Yet?

Robert and John Kennedy button

After Jack was killed, Bobby stepped up. After Bobby was killed, Teddy ran as well. hide caption

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Frank Murkowski button

Since World War II, only four sitting senators left their jobs to become governor. hide caption

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Ken Starr for President button

Six years ago today, Kenneth Starr tried to make the case for the impeachment of President Clinton before the House Judiciary Committee. From Ken Rudin's collection hide caption

itoggle caption From Ken Rudin's collection

Q: I am of the opinion that President Bush chose to keep Vice President Cheney on the ticket so that the Republican field in 2008 is cleared for his brother Jeb. Bobby Kennedy aside, has any other presidential brother run for the White House? — Tom Adams, Fort Mill, S.C.

A: I'll deal with the second part first. I cannot think of any presidential sibling who sought the White House other than JFK's two surviving brothers: Sen. Robert Kennedy (D-NY), whose bid for the 1968 Democratic nomination ended in his assassination; and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), who challenged President Jimmy Carter for renomination in 1980.

As for the first part of your question, I'm sure Cheney was retained on the ticket for more reasons other than simply to clear the field for Jeb in '08. The Prez and Vice Prez have an unusually close relationship, and Cheney was part and parcel of every major administration decision, from the war on terrorism to the effort to topple Saddam Hussein to tax cuts to the nation's energy policy. So I never bought into the Beltway babble that said Cheney was in danger of being dumped from a second-term ticket, no matter what poll numbers said about him. One, Bush prides himself on loyalty, and Cheney is the ultimate loyal vice president; two, dumping Cheney would have been an acknowledgement that his policies were flawed; and three, this election was never going to be decided on who the running mate was.

Still, it hasn't escaped attention that keeping Cheney on the ticket meant there would be no heir apparent for 2008, and some people read that as paving the way for Jeb Bush, the Florida governor who is barred by term limits from running for a third term in 2006. He has said he has no plans to run for president, and that may be true, but plans are known to change. My "top tier" of Republican hopefuls for '08 includes Jeb, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader from Tennessee, apparently will not run for a third term in 2006 and will instead plot out a presidential bid. But I just don't see him succeeding, for reasons that can be discussed in a future column. There is also various talk of some pro-abortion rights Republicans running, such as New Yorkers Rudy Giuliani and/or George Pataki, but I don't see that happening either. One wild card is Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Reading McCain is a task that few people do successfully, but if I had to guess I would say he doesn't run. Same with Colin Powell, who nonetheless continues to appear on lists of would-be candidates. And we'll just have to wait until the Constitution is amended before we discuss what an Arnold Schwarzenegger administration might look like.

Q: Was John Kerry paid his Senate salary during his bid for the White House? I seem to think there is some restriction regarding the issue of salaries being paid to senators while they are taking time off to run for president. — Frank Michaels, Yardley, Pa.

A: Title 2, Section 39 of the United States Code states, "The Secretary of the Senate... shall deduct from the monthly payments... of each Member... the amount of his salary for each day that he has been absent from the Senate... unless such Member... assigns as the reason for such absence the sickness of himself or of some member of his family."

During the campaign, some Republicans suggested Kerry resign from the Senate or at least refund his $158,100 yearly salary. They pointed out that Kerry missed some 87 percent of roll-call votes in the past session, and noted that then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush reimbursed the state for every day he campaigned full-time for president in 2000, though there was nothing in Texas law that required he do so.

But I don't know of any instance in history in which a senator running for president (or for re-election to the Senate, for that matter) has ever been docked pay because of time away on the campaign trail. Kerry and his running mate John Edwards (who also missed a large number of Senate votes) were fully paid their salaries.

Q: I see that New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) has said he will not run for governor. I often read of governors running for the Senate, but how often do senators run for governor? — Valerie Blanchfield, Kansas City, Mo.

A: Far less frequently. Currently there are 12 members of the Senate who served as their states' governors: Tom Carper (DE), Bob Graham (FL), Zell Miller (GA), Evan Bayh (IN), Kit Bond (MO), Ben Nelson (NE), Judd Gregg (NH), George Voinovich (OH), Fritz Hollings (SC), Lamar Alexander (TN), George Allen (VA), and Jay Rockefeller (WV).

On the other hand, there are only two governors who came from the Senate: Frank Murkowski (AK) and Dirk Kempthorne (ID). Only two other senators since World War II have given up their post to become governor: Price Daniel (D-Texas) in 1956; and Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) in 1990.

But that list may get bigger. Sen. Jon Corzine (D) is thought to be a certain gubernatorial candidate next year in New Jersey, a state where the governorship is the most powerful in the country (of course, with N.J. picking its governor in odd-numbered years, Corzine would not be risking his seat to run). Sen. Chris Dodd (D) is considering running in Connecticut, which hasn't elected a Democratic governor since 1986. One reason for these two Democrats to be looking for an exodus from Capitol Hill being bandied about may be the further strengthening of GOP Senate control in this year's election.

This day in political history: The House Judiciary Committee, in a lame-duck session designed to deal with the impeachment of President Clinton, hears from Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. For 12 hours, Starr tries to make the case that Clinton committed perjury and obstruction of justice (Nov. 19, 1998).

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