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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Is the Senate Less Appealing to Potential Candidates?

Months will pass before the shape of the 2014 Senate field is clear, but The New York Times reports that recruiting has been a problem so far:
The dearth of candidates for an open Senate seat reflects what former and current senators and those who once aspired to the office say is a sad truth: rarely has the thought of serving in the Senate seemed so unappealing.

Once considered an apex of national politics second only to the presidency, the “greatest deliberative body in the world” is so riven by partisanship and gummed up by its own arcane rules that potential candidates from Georgia to Kentucky, Iowa to Montana are loudly saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Add to that the cost of getting there — which can include fighting off special interests and “super PACs” from your own party, exhausting criticism from the increasingly partisan news media, and prohibitive campaign expenses — and a Senate seat no longer seems so grand.

Such weariness is evident not just in the people who are forgoing a Senate bid but also in the exodus of senators not seeking re-election. So far, 8 of the 33 whose terms expire in 2014 have decided not to run again. They include some who probably could have sailed back into office, like Mr. Harkin and his fellow Democrats Carl Levin of Michigan and Max Baucus of Montana, chairman of the powerful Finance Committee.

“In the old days, you’d have to carry the Senate Finance chair out on a stretcher,” said Ed Rollins, a veteran political strategist who has advised Republican politicians for four decades, including one in Iowa, State Senator Brad Zaun, who just decided not to run against Mr. Harkin. “There’s just not quite the enthusiasm I’ve seen in other years.”