If Obama Wins the White House, Who Will Replace Him in the Senate?
Illinois political insiders say Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who defended Barack Obama after his father famously threatened to castrate him, is the favorite to replace the Democratic nominee in the Senate.
Jackson Jr., D-Ill., scolded his father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, publicly after his comments were caught unexpectedly on tape before an interview with Fox News this summer.
But Jackson Jr.'s path is by no means assured. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., also wants to replace Sen. Obama in the upper chamber if he is elected president.
This gives Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who must choose between an African-American political scion and a close ally of the labor movement, a difficult decision.
Jackson has made plain that he would like to succeed Obama in the Senate.
"If Sen. Obama wins -- and I'm optimistic that he will, I indeed would be honored and humbled to succeed him in the U.S. Senate," said Jackson in a statement. "But, in the end, the decision rests with Gov. Blagojevich and I'm confident that he'll make an appointment in the best interest of the state as well as the nation."
Jackson's case is strengthened by the fact that Obama is the only African-American member of the Senate. Presumably, Obama would like to see at least one African-American representative in the chamber.
Jackson also benefits from being co-chairman of Obama's presidential campaign and a product of the same South Side Chicago political machine from which the Democratic nominee emerged.
Illinois political insiders, who declined to discuss the subject on the record for fear of appearing presumptuous before the results of the presidential race are known, say Obama would have a major hand in the decision.
But it's not a slam-dunk for Jackson. Blagojevich must pick a candidate who can hold the seat in 2010, when the temporary two-year appointment would expire.
Some Democratic strategists question whether Jackson can win statewide.
"Jesse Jackson doesn't make sense, he's not electable statewide," said a Democratic operative with ties to Illinois. "He's a very left-of-center politician."
Jackson supporters counter that he is no more liberal than Obama and note that he enjoys the support of many Republicans in his district.
Democrats in Schakowsky's camp argue that she would run more successfully in Southern Illinois and tout her strong ties to the labor community. They also tout her energy and record of accomplishment in Congress. She is one of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's, D-Calif., closer friends.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), the Democratic Caucus chairman, has also been floated as a possible successor. But Emanuel and his staff have given little indication that he's interested. Illinois political observers interviewed by The Hill said they believe Emanuel would prefer to climb the rungs of the House leadership.
Blagojevich may go outside the Illinois House delegation. One possible candidate would be Tammy Duckworth, director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs. Duckworth, who is Asian-American, could serve as a compromise candidate on the race question.
Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, could have appeal in conservative-leaning Southern Illinois because of her military record. She is also a protÃƒÂ©gÃƒÂ© of Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., one of Obama's most influential advisors.
Another possibility would be Emil Jones Jr., president of the Illinois Senate, whom some Chicago insiders credit with Obama's rise through the state chamber.
Two other Democratic governors, Ruth Ann Minner of Delaware and Janet Napolitano, face similar quandaries depending on the outcome of the Nov. 4 election.
If Obama is elected president and Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., accedes to the vice presidency, Minner must appoint someone to fill Biden's seat. Delaware political insiders say that Biden wants the seat, which he has held since 1972, to go to his son, Beau Biden. The catch is that Beau, the state's attorney general, is expected to be in Iraq with the Army National Guard, if and when Biden resigns.
Minner must decide whether to appoint Biden's son outright or instead pick a caretaker who would keep the seat warm and give it up voluntarily at the end of the two-year temporary appointment. Just as Obama in Illinois, Joe Biden is expected to have a big role in choosing his successor, and he is widely expected to pave the way for Beau, say several Delaware political experts who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The person most frequently mentioned as a caretaker appointee is Myron Steele, chief justice of the Delaware Supreme Court. Secretary of State Harriet Smith Windsor is another candidate who is seen as willing to make way for Beau in 2010.
Both Steele and Windsor are considered close to Joe Biden and viewed as relatively uninterested in a long Senate career.
Minner could appoint Beau outright, although that may bring murmured grumbles about nepotism. If the young Biden is not interested, however, Lieutenant Gov. John Carney Jr., who lost the recent gubernatorial primary, could be viable option, say Delaware insiders.
There's a slim chance that Minner's successor would make the pick. Her term expires on Jan. 20, the same day the next president and vice president of the U.S. are to be sworn in. If Biden waits until the last possible moment to resign, the next governor of Delaware, most likely Democratic state treasurer Jack Markell, would choose.
If John McCain, the GOP nominee, wins the White House, Napolitano faces an even trickier decision in Arizona. Unlike most states, Arizona law requires that Napolitano appoint someone from McCain's party to fill his seat should he leave for the Oval Office.
Adding to the mix, Arizona political insiders speculate that Napolitano would like to run for Senate when term limits force her from office in 2010.
"If Sen. McCain were to resign, the governor would choose someone of the same party to fill out the remainder of his term," said spokeswoman Shilo Mitchell.
One Arizona strategist said it is therefore in Napolitano's interest to appoint a Republican successor who would be vulnerable to defeat in 2010. She could appoint a friendly Republican who might be willing to vacate the seat after two years, such as Kristin Mayes, whom Napolitano tapped for the Arizona Corporation Commission in 2003. Mayes, a lifelong Republican, once worked as Napolitano's communications director.