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