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Commentary: Running for the Senate

Last week, Senator Carl Levin announced that he won’t run again next year. Ever since, politicians have been talking nearly nonstop about who will be.

When I woke up yesterday morning, the only one it seemed safe to declare out of the race was former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who seems certain to be in federal prison.

Other than that, in terms of speculation, anything goes. Until yesterday, that is, when Scott Romney, older brother of the defeated presidential candidate, took himself out as well.

Romney, a former MSU trustee, said something revealing. While he was flattered to be considered, he added, “I’m happy with my life.”  That was probably more revealing than he meant it to be.

In my opinion, nobody who is truly happy with their life would run for a major office these days. Anyone seeking to replace Carl Levin has to expect a year and a half of endless travel, endless media scrutiny, and anywhere from two to six candidates in your own party doing anything they can to run you down.

And if you survive all that – and most won’t – you then get a final three months in which you can expect to be vilified by the other party, which will spend millions of dollars running you down.

Oh – and you better not even think about doing this unless you think you can raise at least $10 million to run a successful campaign. No wonder Scott Romney bowed out.

I’ve met and interviewed him, and he struck me as a remarkably sane man. Actually, I think that as with the Bush dynasty, the Romney clan may have run the wrong son for president.

Scott Romney did say, however, that he thought his daughter Ronna Romney McDaniel should run. Consequently, a number of stories appear about her in various media today. None I saw say how old she is, what she does for a living, or why she’d be qualified to be a senator.

My guess is that the race will eventually come down to two or three candidates on the GOP side – Congressmen Mike Rogers and Justin Amash and maybe former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land.

On the Democratic side, it will be Congressman Gary Peters and at least one other contender. Most obviously, are bound to lose.  It could even be that they are the lucky ones.

I’ve been talking to former Attorney General Frank Kelley, who I am assisting with his memoirs. Kelley, a Democrat, ran for the U.S. Senate back in 1972, against incumbent Robert Griffin. He was initially favored, but a controversy over school busing did him in.

Today, Kelley says that except for the blow to his ego, losing was probably a good thing. “This isn’t sour grapes, but I think I would have been bored. As attorney general, I could initiate all sorts of action,” he said. As a junior member of the world’s most deliberative body, he would have sat on committees.

That doesn’t mean the Senate isn’t important. It does mean that anyone running for it might want to think hard about why. Or, as they used to say, be careful what you wish for. If you have $10 million to spend, you just might get it.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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