Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
Everyone's glad to hear that South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson is feeling better, but a few people are probably especially relieved: his family, his fellow Senate Democrats and Republican Governor Michael Rounds.
Rounds is the man who would have had to chose a replacement if Johnson had died or was incapacitated, with control of the Senate depending on the partisan preference of his selection. In other words, Rounds would have been stuck deciding between choosing a Democrat, and earning the ire of his party, or choosing a Republican, and being accused of using a personal tragedy for partisan gain.
But there's more going on than just that. According to D.C. insiders like WashingtonPost.com's Chris Cillizza and Roll Call, there's widespread speculation in Republican circles that Rounds will run for Johnson's Senate seat in 2008. That ambition, though, would have been complicated mightily if Rounds had to choose Johnson's replacement.
Just think what his dicey options would have been.
1) Choose a fellow Republican and then square off against the very person he picked in a primary.
2) Choose a Democrat and earn the ire of Republicans all over the country -- the people he'd be counting on to fund his campaign -- and then face the person he picked in a general election.
3) Choose himself and buy some flame retardant clothes to cope with the political firestorm he'd created.
Now he has the option of running a more generic campaign against Johnson or, if he's unable to run, another Democrat, perhaps former senator Tom Daschle or Representative Stephanie Herseth. Of course, he'd still have to explain to voters why he doesn't want to serve the last two years of the term they elected him as governor. That's proven a tough sell before, such as in 1996, when Nebraskans liked Governor Ben Nelson so much that they decided to pick Chuck Hagel over him for Senate to keep him as governor. (Once Nelson's two terms were over, he got his Senate seat).
This is all assuming Rounds would rather be a U.S. senator than a governor and, in truth, he probably wouldn't. As former Virginia governor and senator George Allen told the New York Times last year, ''I made more decisions in half a day as governor than you can make in a whole week in the Senate.''
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.