Thursday | December 12, 2002
If Lott resigns, then what?
Hmm, time to engage in a little speculation.
Say Lott is pushed out. In the past, disgraced leaders (like Livingston) have resigned their seats. Really, the humiliation of getting the heave-ho is better swallowed back home, than sitting amongst those who gave you the boot.
BUT, if Lott resigns his seat, Mississippi's Democratic governor will (theorertically) appoint a Democrat to replace him. Normally, this wouldn't be the worst thing possible. It's not as if MS wouldn't return a Republican to the Senate in a 2004 special election.
But these are not ordinary times. If Lott is replaced by a Democrat (a Zel Miller Democrat, no doubt, but one that would vote for Daschle), that would make the Senate 50-50 once again. And THEN, a Chaffee switch is not inconceivable.
The beauty of this scenario is that Republicans couldn't cry that Democrats "stole" the Senate. Lott's resignation would be his fault alone, while Chaffee's switch would be seen by moderates as a repudiation of the GOP's dominant Southern wing. Partisan Republicans couldn't seize on this the way they did with the Jefford's switch.
So, it's clear that for Republicans to assure themselves the majority, they could not afford to have Lott resign his seat. But if he was pushed out, could he really go from the number two Republican to essentially a back-bencher? (Indeed, who would even work with him? He'd be radioactive!) The pressure for him to quit the Senate would be intense (from pundits, his own pride, and, perhaps, even feelings of betrayal and spite).
Perhaps that's why Senate Republicans have stood by Lott as strongly as they have. Anything less, and they might be seeing their majority slip through their grasp yet again.Posted December 12, 2002 11:01 AM | Comments (65)