Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The perils of foot dragging

Governors in the position of having an opportunity to pick a Senate seat certainly do face a daunting decision. They can promote a political ally, or give a boost to someone who can in turn, either through their personal popularity or their fundraising prowess, help the Governor further his or her own political career.

But the pitfalls are many as well. Choose poorly the reverse can happen. A Governor can turn an ally into an enemy, or suffer in terms of his or her own popularity because some people may disagree with the Senate selection.

What is clear though, is that the longer a Governor takes, the more intensely the spotlight shines, and the bigger the risks become.

We've obviously seen the Blagojevich scandal in Illinois, but even that is now taking a backseat to the intense and growing pressure that New York Governor David Paterson is under to alternately select Caroline Kennedy or not to select Caroline Kennedy (and if not Caroline Kennedy then all kinds of contradictory pressures as to who other than her to select.)

In contrast, outgoing Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner is leaving office without much heat. Granted, she is apparently retiring anyway, but despite questions that have been raised over her selection of an obscure aide to Joe Biden who is apparently just going to serve two years and keep the seat warm for Beau Biden, Joe's son who will run as soon as he gets back from Iraq, Minner isn't the focus of much media heat.

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter is starting to face a similar spotlight. The biggest question is whether he will appoint Ken Salazar's older brother, Congressman John Salazar to the Senate seat, or whether it will be someone with a different surname. My advice to Governor Ritter is this: If he doesn't want to end up in the same position as Governor Paterson, where virtually anything he does is sure to tick off a majority of the public and make some powerful enemies, he should act quickly and decisively and put a name out there.


Anonymous said...

I don't think it's as clear cut as you lay out, Eli. For instance, there was a lot of behind the scenes discussions regarding the appointment of Biden's replacement, with Biden apparently insisting that nobody be appointed that could stand in Beau's way. While it's never been confirmed, a lot of people believe that Minner wanted to reward her Lt. Governor, John Carney, who lost to Jack Markell in the gubernatorial primary. Biden stated that he'd stay in his Senate seat right up until his inauguration and Markell decided to be sworn in at 12:01 AM that same day, which would then cut Minner out of the decision. After considerable back and forth Minner agreed to nominate the placeholder.

In New York, my impression is that Paterson has been blindsided (no pun intended) by the pro-Caroline blitz. I doubt he'd begun to seriously evaluate candidates before that happened, and the way it's going down screams that it's the Kennedy family machine that's orchestrating this. This whole public campaigning thing by Kennedy-Schlossberg for the job is pathetic in my view, since Paterson's the only person she really has to convince.

I don't think Blagojevich was planning to draw out his decision all that long, either. Blago probably would have made a decision by now (since unlike the other three seats, this one is actually open) except that the Feds decided to arrest him. My presumption is that they moved when they did because he was selling the seat - there was no real rush to arrest him when they did otherwise.

Eli Blake said...


Ritter did take my advice, and chose quickly and cleanly. Paterson is still dragging his foot, and Blago-- well, he's guaranteed himself a job as a talk-show host if he beats the rap after he's tossed out of office.