Diplomacy, with a Side of Rice

Colin Powell button

Unlike Kissinger and now Rice, Powell took a circuitous route from NSA to secretary of state. hide caption

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Rodger McDaniel campaign button

The first Wyoming Senate candidate in history to have a question in Political Junkie! hide caption

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Howard Baker

Twenty-four years ago today, Senate Republicans name Baker as their majority leader. hide caption

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Note: If you wish to be notified when a new "Political Junkie" is published, drop me a line at politicaljunkie@npr.org.

Also, when sending in a question, please be sure to include your city and state.

Q: With National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice having been nominated for secretary of state, has any other former NSA made that transition? — Bradley Andresen, Washington, D.C.

A: Only one has made the transition without interruption: Henry Kissinger. Kissinger, in fact, continued as NSA when he was named by President Nixon to be his secretary of state and served both jobs concurrently from Sept. 21, 1973 to Nov. 3, 1975. Colin Powell also held both posts, albeit 12 years and four presidents apart. He was national security advisor during the final 13 months of President Reagan's second term, after Frank Carlucci left the post to become secretary of defense. Powell became secretary of state under the current President Bush in 2001.

Q: Who decided the dates of this year's national party conventions? It seems to me it gave the GOP a great opportunity to go so late, a full month after the Democrats. — Rodger McDaniel, Cheyenne, Wyo.

A: As to who decided which party held its convention first, tradition — at least since 1956, when Republican President Dwight Eisenhower was running for re-election – says that the out-of-power party goes first. That's the way it's been in the past 13 election cycles. You could make the argument that the party going second might have an advantage in that they get the last word. But that wasn't the case in 1960, 1968, 1976, 1980, 1992 or 2000, where each time the incumbent party held its convention second but lost in November anyway.

As for why the Democrats held their 2004 convention a full five weeks before the GOP, that's another story. There was a lot of angst in Democratic circles earlier this year that by holding their convention so much later, the Republicans were being given a financial advantage. Campaign finance rules state that once a candidate accepts his party's nomination for president, public financing (in the amount of $75 million) kicks in, meaning he can no longer raise or spend funds on his own… funds presumably far more than $75 million. By being nominated five weeks earlier than Bush, the argument went, Kerry would have to stretch out his public money for a longer period of time than Bush. As it turned out, money was not a factor in Kerry losing to Bush.

And as to why the Democrats didn't schedule their convention later in the summer, they were hamstrung in having to work around the Olympics, which were being held Aug. 13-29. Four years ago, when the GOP was the out party, Republicans held their convention just two weeks before the Dems.

By the way, the questioner was too modest to mention this, but he is the director of the Department of Family Services in Wyoming and was the Democratic nominee for the Senate in 1982 against incumbent Republican Malcolm Wallop. Thus, Rodger McDaniel is the first Wyoming Senate candidate in history to have his question published in this column.

And speaking of famous pols of the past:

Q: My name is Joe Wyatt Jr. I'm a former Member of Congress from Texas who served from 1979-81. I have been trying to find out some information about the elections of 1860 and 1864. How many electoral votes did Lincoln receive in each election? What was the number of votes cast by state? Did the Confederate States conduct elections? — Joe Wyatt Jr., Victoria, Texas

A: Lincoln owed his 1860 election to Democratic factionalism. Northerners were behind Sen. Stephen Douglas of Illinois, while Southerners supported Vice President John Breckinridge. Democrats met in Charleston, S.C., in April of 1860 and immediately got into a platform fight over slavery and whether Congress had the power to restrict it in the new territories. Northerners had won some key platform votes, which prompted delegates from nine Southern states to bolt the convention. With the Southerners gone, Douglas had no real roadblock to winning the nomination, but it meant that he could not attain the two-thirds vote required at the time. After 10 days of battling, and still no presidential nominee, delegates decided to recess for six weeks and reconvene in June in Baltimore. In Baltimore, many of the delegates who walked out in Charleston were allowed back in, and after some rules changes, Douglas was able to claim the nomination. But a clear indication of the problems the Democrats faced came when the vice-presidential nod went to a Southerner, Sen. Benjamin Fitzpatrick of Alabama — who promptly declined the nomination.

Meanwhile, those delegates who bolted Charleston held their own convention in Richmond, Va., where they nominated Breckinridge and adopted a strongly pro-slavery platform. In addition, another group of conservatives met in Baltimore to form still another party, the Constitutional Union Party, which endorsed Sen. John Bell of Tennessee for president. The split allowed Lincoln and the Republicans to win. Lincoln carried 17 of the nation's 33 states — California (with 4 electoral votes), Connecticut (6), Illinois (11), Indiana (13), Iowa (4), Maine (8), Massachusetts (13), Michigan (6), Minnesota (4), New Hampshire (5), New York (35), Ohio (23), Oregon (3), Pennsylvania (27), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (5), and Wisconsin (5), plus four from New Jersey, for a total of 180 electoral votes.

Breckinridge won 11 states — Alabama (9), Arkansas (4), Delaware (3), Florida (3), Georgia (10), Louisiana (6), Maryland (8), Mississippi (7), North Carolina (10), South Carolina (8), and Texas (4), for a total of 72. Bell won 39 electoral votes by carrying Kentucky (12), Tennessee (12), and Virginia (15).

Douglas ran closest to Lincoln in the popular vote, getting 1.4 million votes to Honest Abe's 1.9 million. But Douglas won only Missouri (9) and got three electoral votes from New Jersey, for a total of 12.

Shortly after Lincoln's election, seven states — South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Texas and Florida — seceded from the union. Immediately following the events at Fort Sumter in April of 1861, four other states (Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee) also joined the Confederacy, and the Civil War was on.

In the election of 1864, voters in the 11 Confederate States were ineligible to participate. As it was, they had their own president in Jefferson Davis, who had become chief executive in February of 1861 following a convention of Confederate legislators in Montgomery, Ala. In Lincoln's 1864 battle for re-election against Gen. George McClellan, the president carried 22 of the 25 states, losing only Delaware, Kentucky (which did not secede) and New Jersey. The electoral vote count was 212 for Lincoln, 21 for McClellan.

Q: In your June 2nd column, you mentioned that South Dakota has an all-Democratic congressional delegation for the first time since 1937. Obviously, that will change now that John Thune has defeated Sen. Tom Daschle. What's the longest period of time that any one party held sole possession of a state's congressional delegation? Are Massachusetts and Hawaii the only states that will have only Democrats in the 109th Congress? — James Rogers, Chester, Conn.

A: As you can imagine, states in the Deep South are the ones that have gone through the longest period since Reconstruction without any Republican representation. The main holdouts and when they caved: South Carolina, where Sen. Strom Thurmond broke the all-Democratic delegation when he switched to the GOP in September of 1964; Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, which didn't elect their first Republicans to the House until November of '64, when Barry Goldwater swept those states in his presidential bid; Arkansas, where John Paul Hammerschmidt (R) was elected to the House in 1966; and Louisiana, which held out the longest, electing its first post-Reconstruction Republican to Congress in 1972 when David Treen won. (Louisiana was also the last holdout for the Senate, of any state, electing its first Republican this year.)

As for the other part of your question, in addition to Hawaii and Massachusetts, two other states have no GOP representation in Congress: North Dakota, with two Democratic senators and one Democratic House member; and Vermont, which has one Democratic senator, one independent senator (former Republican Jim Jeffords), and one independent House member.

Q: What is the longest continuous period in which the Democrats controlled both the House and Senate? — Gene McCann

A: Since the advent of the current two-party system, the longest period of Democratic control of Congress was between 1954, when they captured both chambers, until 1980, when they lost the Senate to the GOP. Republicans didn't win back the House until 1994, and that 40-year period of control is the longest any party has been in the majority of either the House or Senate.

Q: Who, other than the late Strom Thurmond, has ever been elected to a major office by a write-in vote? — Debra Cheng, Kensington, Md.

A: Nobody in the Senate other than Thurmond, who was elected on a write-in campaign in 1954, and no governors, either. Three House members initially came to Congress on a write-in: Ron Packard of California in 1982, Joe Skeen of New Mexico in 1980, and Dale Alford of Arkansas in 1958. Alford was a Democrat, while Packard and Skeen were Republicans.

This Day in Political History: Senate Republicans, having won control of the upper house for the first time since 1954, choose Howard Baker of Tennessee to be majority leader (Dec. 2, 1980).

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