Meager Money: Will Sen. Warner Run Again? The 2008 money race has largely focused on the presidential hopefuls. But Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia drew attention when he reported bringing in just $500 in the first quarter. Will he really run for re-election?
NPR logo Meager Money: Will Sen. Warner Run Again?

Meager Money: Will Sen. Warner Run Again?

A paltry $500 raised thus far in 2007, and questions about his intentions for 2008. hide caption

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One House Democrat whose defeat can definitely be laid at the hands of the NRA. hide caption

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The GOP ticket in 1940; both were dead by 1944. hide caption

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Thirty-four years ago today, ex-Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner is sentenced to prison for his role in a racetrack scandal. hide caption

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Nearly all the attention regarding the recent fundraising totals for candidates has been on the presidential hopefuls. Did we expect Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to be so close? Will Mitt Romney's ability to raise all that money translate into increased support in polls? What message does John McCain's less-than-expected fundraising totals tell us? These stories have been everywhere.

Nonetheless, I was more interested by the figures announced by candidates for the Senate. Trying to ascertain the political viability of candidates by the amount of money they've raised is not an exact science, but some things are worth exploring.

Most intriguing was the first-quarter total raised by Republican incumbent John Warner of Virginia: $500. That's it. Not much more than the cost of a John Edwards haircut. And that raises the issue as to whether Warner, 80 years old, will seek a sixth term next year. He says he is seriously considering it. Maybe yes, maybe no. But given the fact that Virginia has elected Democratic governors in two successive elections and elected a new Democratic senator last year, if Warner intends to run again, he's going to need to raise more than $500 every three months.

There is no lack of people who have a stake in Warner's decision. Leading the list is Rep. Tom Davis, a moderate Republican from Northern Virginia who has long wanted to move up to the Senate. He has said he would run if Warner didn't, but so might others in the party, especially those from the conservative wing who have never been fond of Davis. Prospective candidates include former Sen. George Allen (who may be also mulling a run for governor in 2009) and Jim Gilmore, ostensibly a presidential hopeful and who, like Allen, is a former governor.

On the Democratic side, there's Mark Warner, another ex-governor who had earlier toyed with a White House bid (and who challenged John Warner in 1996). He too is thought to be looking at the '09 gov race. But the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, looking to increase its current 51-49 margin, is thought to be looking at Mark Warner as the top choice.

John Warner remains the favorite if he decides to run again. But 2008 is a long way off. One week before the 2006 elections, I was still predicting the Republicans would maintain control of the Senate.

Elsewhere in Washington, the focus has been on the long-term viability of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is under fire for his handling of the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. As someone who thought he would be gone before this week — before he had to face hostile questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee — I still think he is not long for the job. And while there is no suggestion here that Gonzales is guilty of any crime, I do nonetheless open the questioning with one about attorneys general of the past.

Q: How many attorneys general have been convicted of crimes, or engaged in criminal activity while in office? — Bob Thomas

A: Two certainly stand out. John Mitchell, who went from Richard Nixon's campaign manager to attorney general, was convicted for his role in the Watergate scandal and spent 19 months in prison. And while Harry Daugherty, the AG under President Harding, was not convicted for his role in the Teapot Dome scandal, he was indicted and eventually forced to resign his office.

One who was not indicted but thoroughly investigated for his ties to a military contractor and his involvement in an Iraqi pipeline project was Ed Meese, Reagan's attorney general. A special prosecutor spent 14 months on the Meese investigation but said in June 1988 that he lacked the evidence to force an indictment. Meese said he was vindicated but nonetheless resigned within a couple of months.

Q: I know that the House underwent significant turnover in the 2006, 1994 and 1974 midterm elections. What was the largest partisan turnover of House seats in history? — Arthur Drake, Bloomington, Ill.

A: Here are the largest partisan gains in the House elections since 1900, according to Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, and how they compared to 2006:

1932: Dem gain of 97 seats
1938: GOP gain of 80 seats
1948: Dem gain of 75 seats
1922: Dem gain of 75 seats
1914: GOP gain of 66 seats
1920: GOP gain of 63 seats
1912: Dem gain of 62 seats
1946: GOP gain of 56 seats
1910: Dem gain of 56 seats
1994: GOP gain of 52 seats
1930: Dem gain of 53 seats
1958: Dem gain of 49 seats
1966: GOP gain of 47 seats
1942: GOP gain of 47 seats
1974: Dem gain of 43 seats
1904: GOP gain of 43 seats
1964: Dem gain of 38 seats
2006: Dem gain of 33 seats
1980: GOP gain of 33 seats

Q: Here's an interesting sidebar to the item in your Feb. 14 column in which you noted that 1940 Republican presidential nominee Wendell Willkie had announced a repeat candidacy in February 1944 but would be dead in October. In addition to Willkie, his 1940 running mate — Sen. Charles McNary of Oregon — also died in '44. If the GOP ticket had been elected that year, it could have been the first time that both a president and vice president died in office. — Jerry Skurnik, New York, N.Y.

A: I love this!

Q: In your April 12 column, you featured a comment to the effect that Democratic presidential candidates who boycott the debate cosponsored by Fox News and the Congressional Black Caucus are being short-sighted. I disagree. Fox never allows any Democrat from getting his or her message out without distortion. Democrats are subject to ambush by Fox talking heads, and the candidates devote their airtime to defense rather than offense. The idea of trying to reach out to people interested in Democratic ideas by appearing on Fox is illusory, and such appearances are just wastes of time and effort. — Gerry Hoffman, Edinboro, Pa.

Similarly:

Q: In this week's podcast, you and Ron Elving were commenting on the hypocrisy of the media and politicians who jumped the Imus ship only after the recent scandal. But then you spoke about the Democrats abandoning Fox for their debates and how it was sort of a missed opportunity for them to reach certain people. It seemed like you were yourselves missing the point you just made. Like Don Imus, Fox has a long history of using the airwaves to broadcast prejudiced under the guise of "balanced" perspective. — Rose Sponder, Penn Valley, Calif.

SOONER THAN LATER: David Kuhn of Rockville, Md. catches an error in last week's column, noting that Oklahoma was admitted to the Union in 1907, and thus there were 46 states, not 45, as of 1908.

And speaking of Oklahoma, Nicholas Ohh of London, England, asks why I left the state off the list of Southern states Al Gore carried in the 1988 Super Tuesday primaries. I think I usually consider Oklahoma more of a Midwestern state rather than a classic Southern state, though I agree it is subject to interpretation.

As for last week's lead, on the perennial wishing by voters for other candidates to get into the presidential contest, the always-fun Mark Barabak of the Los Angeles Times writes, "Having witnessed this play out over several presidential cycles, I've come to call it the Peggy Lee Phenomenon — as in, 'Is That All There Is?' You can always take it to the bank; in this cycle, like so much else, the sentiment is earlier than ever."

HOW'S BAYOU?: Here's the latest on the Louisiana gubernatorial race. Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu has joined his fellow Democrat, ex-Sen. John Breaux, in taking himself out of consideration for this year's gubernatorial contest. Breaux had been seen as the party's savior following the (apparently wise) decision by Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) to retire after one term. When Breaux said questions about his residency — he moved to Maryland in 2003, where he is registered to vote — forced him out of the race, Dems looked at Landrieu, brother of Sen. Mary Landrieu. The dual decisions leave Rep. Bobby Jindal (R) as the favorite to recapture the governorship for the GOP.

THE GUN VOTE, 1994: Here's a look back at the 1994 assault weapons ban that passed in the House by a vote of 216-214. It was seen at the time as a major defeat for the NRA, and it was ... but it has since been argued, rightly or wrongly, as one of the reasons Democrats lost the House that year. What follows is a list of the House incumbents who were defeated in 1994 and how they voted on the bill. (Two members, Jill Long of Indiana and Speaker Tom Foley of Washington, did not vote):

Voted for the bill (21): Karan English (AZ), Dan Hamburg (CA), Richard Lehman (CA), Lynn Schenk (CA), Don Johnson (GA), Dan Rostenkowski (IL), Dan Glickman (KS), Peter Hoagland (NE), Dick Swett (NH), Herb Klein (NJ), George Hochbrueckner (NY), David Price (NC), David Mann (OH), Eric Fingerhut (OH), Mike Synar (OK-primary), Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (PA), Karen Shepherd (UT), Leslie Byrne (VA), Maria Cantwell (WA), Jay Inslee (WA), Mike Kreidler (WA),

Voted against the bill (12): Buddy Darden (GA), Larry LaRocco (ID), Frank McCloskey (IN), Neal Smith (IA), Tom Barlow (KY), Jim Bilbray (NV), Martin Lancaster (NC), Ted Strickland (OH), Jack Brooks (TX), Bill Sarpalius (TX), Jolene Unsoeld (WA), Peter Barca (WI).

Note: There will always be a debate over the role the NRA and other pro-gun groups played in the Republicans taking control of Congress in 1994. But it is beyond question that Oklahoma's Mike Synar, beaten by a political unknown in the Democratic primary after being targeted by the NRA for his vote on the assault-weapons bill, is a clear example of someone whose political career ended by a wrong vote on a gun bill.

PROTECTING THE PRESIDENT? With all the conspiracy theories out there, here's one more that's been making the rounds in the blogosphere in recent days: the decision by the White House Correspondents Association to have Rich Little as the featured guest entertainer for Saturday night's dinner because he would go soft on President Bush. Little, a comedian who has not been heard from since the Harding administration, is not, shall we say, known for his biting political satire; certainly nothing like the stuff heard out of last year's guest, Stephen Colbert, who showed no hesitancy in going after Bush. There are some journalists — myself included — who didn't think Colbert was especially funny last year or (I'm going to regret this word) "appropriate." But the e-mail that came in after Colbert's performance was scathingly critical of the media, stating that the real reason we didn't appreciate his brand of humor was because he spoke "truth to power," which we can't accept, and that in any event we were uncomfortable with criticism of the president, whom we "go out of our way to protect." I can argue this point until I'm blue in the face, but I know it's a futile exercise. Anyway, a complete report on Rich Little's performance in next week's column.

WE'RE ON THE AIR: The "Political Junkie" segment can be heard on Talk of the Nation, NPR's call-in show, every Wednesday at 2:40 p.m. If the online column leaves you craving more, then you should tune in to TOTN each Wednesday for your fix! If your local NPR station doesn't carry TOTN, you can still hear it on the Web. This week's segment focused on the standoff between President Bush and congressional Democrats over the Iraq funding bill, and the prospect of new gun-control legislation in the wake of the tragedy at Virginia Tech, with Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) as the special guest.

IT'S ALL POLITICS: Which just so happens is the name of our weekly podcast. This week's taping will occur a little later than usual in order to hear what Mr. Gonzales has to say before the Senate Judiciary Committee. So while the new programs always go up every Thursday afternoon, this one may not be ready until later in the evening.

Don't Forget: If you are sending in a question to be used in this column, please don't forget to include your city and state.

This day in political history: U.S. Appeals Court Judge Otto Kerner, a former Democratic governor of Illinois, is sentenced to three years in prison for his role in a racetrack stock scandal. Kerner was elected governor in 1960 and 1964 before being appointed to the bench by President Johnson (April 19, 1973).

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