Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Musical Senate Chairs

Sen. McCain has called upon Sen. Stevens to resign from the Senate now that he is a convicted felon. The NY Times story so reporting does not clearly state whether Sen. McCain thinks Sen. Stevens should resign effective immediately, thereby all but ensuring the election of Democrat Mark Begich to the Senate, or whether McCain would prefer if Stevens stayed on the ballot, won the election, and then resigned, giving Governor Palin a chance to name an interim Republican Senator pending a special election. (For a discussion of the further complexities of filling vacancies in Alaska's Senate seats, see this post by Rick Hasen.) The latter course would presumably be in what McCain regards as the country's best interest, since it would reduce the Democratic margin in the Senate. Yet the man who puts country first does not appear to be suggesting a delayed resignation. Why not? Herewith 3 possibilities:

1) Perhaps I've just misread McCain and he does have in mind a resignation by Stevens after he is re-elected. According to the McClatchy story, McCain said Stevens "should now step down," but perhaps by "now" he means "some time in the next two weeks, preferably in 8 days."

2) With no time to substitute a different name for Stevens on the ballot, perhaps the election of Begich is a fait accompli, as a majority of Alaskans will not pull the lever for a convicted felon, even if it means the Democrats pick up a Senate Seat.

3) Or perhaps McCain has calculated that whatever happens to Stevens, he just can't afford to have his "reform" brand further tarnished and so must put his own campaign first. This is an acute problem for Gov. Palin who, fairly or not, will be associated with Stevens, especially in light of the finding that she acted unethically in seeking to have her ex-brother-in-law dismissed.

Posted by Mike Dorf


Mainon said...

I don't think it's your #2 hypothesis.
From what I've seen, many people here in Alaska are fiercely loyal to Stevens, and so far seem pretty unabashed by his conviction.

A few days ago I spoke to one of Begich's volunteers, and his perception was that a conviction would help, but not by much. I think it's going to be close, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Stevens come out on top. (Though, of course, I'd like to think both the Begich volunteer and I are just being pessimistic.)

#3, on the other hand, doesn't seem too unlikely. Though it presumes that McCain is capable of staying true to an anti-corruption narrative, which might require more consistency than he's shown thus far. See http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/26/magazine/26mccain-t.html

As you noted, that would also seem to put McCain in an uncomfortable position vis-a-vis his own running mate.

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