Is Tom DeLay Toast?

Charles Curtis campaign button

The last VP who didn't later run for president was Curtis, Herbert Hoover's running mate, more than 70 years ago. hide caption

itoggle caption
Marilyn Quayle button

Marilyn Quayle is not going to run for Arizona governor, but it gives us an excuse to use this wonderful button distributed by her supporters in the early 1990s. hide caption

itoggle caption
Laxalt potential presidential bid button

Eighteen years ago today, Nevada Sen. Laxalt formed a presidential exploratory committee. But he never actually ran for the GOP nomination. hide caption

itoggle caption


Q: Is Tom DeLay toast? — Edward Taylor, El Paso, Texas

A: No. Toast is sliced bread, heated and browned. Tom DeLay is a Republican congressman representing the 22nd District of Texas. The fate of DeLay is unclear at this juncture. There is no question that Republican congressmen are growing weary of the daily Tom DeLay stories, questions about his travel, questions about his finances, questions about his tactics. Right now, however, there doesn't seem to be a serious crack in GOP support; Chris Shays and Tom Tancredo do not a palace coup make. But if the House ethics committee uncovers more information that further damages the majority leader — say, serious questions about his former relationship with lobbyist Jack Abramoff — I think at some point Republican leaders will decide he is not worth the political capital of defending him. I just don't feel we're at that point quite yet.

John Bolton, on the other hand — President Bush's choice to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations — is toast.

Q: I cannot recall any vice president who has categorically stated he has no interest in running for president when his term ended. That is, until Dick Cheney. Who was the last veep to bow out in advance? — Rachel Sawyer, Washington, D.C.

A: It is certainly most unusual for a vice president to disclaim any intention of succeeding his boss. There is no question in my mind that Cheney's disclaimer is genuine, not the kind of posturing one often hears from those swearing off White House ambitions. Aside from age or health questions, Cheney — arguably the most powerful and influential vice president in history — made it clear from day one that his role was to support George W. Bush in any way he can. He has earned Bush's trust and gratitude, and he has never made the president wonder about a hidden agenda. Of course, given the role Cheney has played these last four and a half years, perhaps running for president would be seen as a step down.

The last elected vice president not to run for president was Republican Charles Curtis. A White House contender in 1928, he was chosen that year as Herbert Hoover's running mate over Hoover's objections. Neither Hoover nor Curtis cared for each other in the ticket's ill-fated bid for re-election in 1932. But Curtis never ran for president after that. Here's a look at all the elected vice presidents since Curtis and their record as presidential candidates:

Al Gore (2 terms, 1993-2001): unsuccessful Democratic nominee, 2000. Also sought the nomination in '88.

Dan Quayle (1 term, 1989-93): briefly sought Republican nomination for 2000. Withdrew in September 1999, prior to primaries.

George H.W. Bush (2 terms, 1981-89): elected president, 1988. Defeated for re-election in 1992. Also sought the Republican nomination in 1980.

Walter Mondale (1 term, 1977-81): unsuccessful Democratic nominee, 1984.

Spiro Agnew (2 terms, 1969-73): considered a leading Republican contender for 1976, Agnew resigned the vice presidency in the wake of a scandal in '73.

Hubert Humphrey (1 term, 1965-69): unsuccessful Democratic nominee, 1968. Also sought the nomination in 1960 and '72.

Lyndon Johnson (1 term, 1961-63): succeeded to the presidency following the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. Elected on his own in 1964. Did not seek another term in '68. Also sought the Democratic nomination in 1960.

Richard Nixon (2 terms, 1953-61): unsuccessful Republican nominee, 1960. Later elected in 1968 & '72.

Alben Barkley (1 term, 1949-53): hoped to succeed President Truman as the Democratic nominee in 1952, but at age 75 was deemed too old to be considered.

Harry Truman (3 months, 1945): succeeded to the presidency following the death of President Roosevelt in 1945. Elected on his own in 1948. Did not seek another term in '52.

Henry Wallace (1 term, 1941-45): dumped as vice president by FDR in 1944. Sought the presidency as a third-party candidate in 1948.

John Nance Garner (2 terms, 1933-41): challenged President Roosevelt's bid for a third term at the 1940 Democratic convention. Also sought the nomination in '32.

Q: I see that former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld (R) is thinking of running for governor of New York, in the event incumbent Republican George Pataki retires. Has anyone ever been elected governor in two different states? — Tom Adams, Fort Mill, S.C.

A: Just one. Sam Houston was elected governor in Tennessee in 1827. After that, he moved to Texas, was a military hero in the battle for Texas independence (where he defeated Mexican Gen. Santa Anna), and won the governorship there in 1859. So should Weld run and win in N.Y., he will have at least one thing in common with Sam Houston. One major difference, however, would be the Mexican connection. Weld resigned as governor of Massachusetts in 1997 when President Clinton nominated him to be ambassador to Mexico. Sam Houston may have defeated Gen. Santa Anna, but in his bid to win the blessing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Weld was unable to defeat Gen. Jesse Helms.

Q: Marilyn Quayle's name has come up as a potential Republican candidate for governor of Arizona next year. I know that Hillary Clinton is the only former first lady to seek public office. Has any wife of a vice president run for office? — Mark Dillon, Phoenix, Ariz.

A: No, although Muriel Humphrey, Hubert's widow, was appointed to his Senate seat following his death in 1978. But she never ran for the post. And Marilyn Quayle is not going to run for governor.

Moore or Less: My April 13 list of sitting senators who came home and were elected governor increases by one. Nicholas Ohh of London, England reminds us that Sen. A. Harry Moore of New Jersey returned to the Garden State in 1937 and won the governorship. Moore, a Democrat, seemed to bounce around between the two jobs. He was first elected governor in 1925 and again in 1931. In the middle of his governorship he won a Senate seat in 1934. And three years into his Senate term he decided he would rather be governor again.

Regarding the scenario of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison returning to Texas to challenge Gov. Rick Perry for his job in next year's Republican primary, Nicholas is also among those who find it surprising that she would be considering such a move, given the fact that Texas historically has one of the weakest governors in the nation (unlike New Jersey, one of the nation's most powerful governors, and where Sen. Jon Corzine seems to be headed).

Several readers, including Ray Graves of Detroit, Mich., and Audie Thompson of Miami, Fla., thought that Lawton Chiles should be on that list. Same with Paul Hughes of Bloomfield, Conn., who wanted to see Lowell Weicker included. But both were EX-senators when they won the governorship, not incumbent senators. Chiles, a Florida Democrat, left the Senate after 1988 and was elected governor two years later. Weicker, a Connecticut Republican, was defeated in his bid for a fourth Senate term in '88, and two years later was elected governor as an independent. In addition, political reporter Charlotte Albright says Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has not ruled out a challenge to Gov. John Baldacci (D) next year. Collins was the unsuccessful GOP nominee for governor of Maine in 1994.

And a million apologies to Zac McCrary of Tuscaloosa, Ala., who was the first to point out that Marta Brown was the last widow of a House member to unsuccessfully pursue his seat (see April 13 "Junkie"), but for some reason never got mentioned in the column.

Finally, congratulations to the dozens and dozens of free thinkers who wrote in, often using the exact same language, regarding a piece by NPR's David Welna on the oncoming collision in the Senate over the right of the minority to filibuster judicial nominations. David mentioned that Senate Democrats are calling Republican leader Bill Frist's threat to change the rules and curtail the filibuster the "nuclear option." Some Web logs took NPR to task by saying we were parroting the GOP line by attributing the quote to the Dems, when after all it was Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) who coined the phrase. All David was doing was saying that Democrats were calling it the "nuclear option," which they were. Welna didn't say that the Dems originated the term. He didn't get into its etymology. But suddenly, according to a bunch of blogs, NPR was "bamboozled," joining the vast right-wing conspiracy in attributing the phrase to the Democrats. And that was followed by dozens of e-mails, all from people "outraged" that NPR would stoop to such tactics. The least they could do is change some of the wording and make it look like they actually did some independent thinking before pressing the "send" button.

This Day in Campaign History: Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-NV), often referred to as President Reagan's "best friend" in the Senate, announces he has formed an exploratory committee for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination (April 28, 1987).

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: politicaljunkie@npr.org.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.