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Obama To Resign From Senate, Who's Next?

The news that President-elect Barack Obama will resign from the Senate on Sunday is sure to amp up the pressure on Gov. Rod Blagojevich to pick a replacement as well as heighten the speculation about the identity of the next Senator from Illinois.

As we have written before, this decision is almost solely about Blagojevich's politics and political future. Blagojevich, despite two terms in which he has been besieged by scandals and low poll numbers, continues to weigh a bid for a third term in 2010.

If Blagojevich decides to run again, the thinking is that he would appoint someone who would help cement a critical Democratic voting bloc given the likelihood that he will face a serious challenge from within his own party if he decides on a third term. The most obvious way to achieve that goal is for Blagojevich to appoint an African American replacement for Obama -- potentially shoring up his support in the black community.

If Blagojevich decides against a third term, all bets are off. He could make a score-settling pick (this is Chicago politics after all) or a totally outside-the-box selection given that he would no longer be beholden to any particular political interest group.

State law gives Blagojevich almost unlimited freedom in making the appointment with no specific timeline for the pick to be made. According to the Chicago Tribune, Blagojevich has said he would like to make the appointment by the end of the year.

Here's our updated look at the most likely appointees:

* Jesse Jackson Jr.: The young Chicago-area Congressman has made no secret of his interest in the post privately although he has played it a bit more coy publicly. Jackson Jr. was an early and staunch Obama ally but he enjoys far less friendly relations with Blagojevich. He is touting commission a poll by John Zogby that shows him as the favorite pick for the Obama vacancy.

* Tammy Duckworth: The current head of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, Duckworth has a compelling personal story (she lost both of her legs in a helicopter crash in Iraq) and is friendly with Obama, Blagojevich and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Obama's newly-named chief of staff. (Witness Duckworth's high profile photo op with Obama on Veteran's Day earlier this week for evidence of how she is regarded by the Obama team). On the downside, Duckworth is relatively new to the political game,having run unsuccessfully for Congress in 2006.

* Jan Schakowsky: Schakowsky gets less publicity in regards this race than either Jackson Jr. or Duckworth but she has a few key things on her side: she was an early endorser of Blagojevich's gubernatorial campaign back in 2002 (politicians NEVER forget an early endorsement) and she is a favorite of organized labor. Worries about her electability are the main problem with Schakowsky, according to handicappers of the race.

* Emil Jones: The retiring head of the Illinois state Senate is as close to Blagojevich as any politician in the state -- and that's both a good and a bad thing. Jones is African American and could be seen as a safe, alternative pick for the governor if he decided not to go with Jackson Jr. Jones is 73 years old, however, and there are questions about whether he would hold the seat only until 2010 -- or whether he would run for a full six year term at that time.

* Jesse White: White, who is also black, has served as Secretary of State since 1998 and is now in his third term. At 74, White would likely be a caretaker for the next two years -- holding the seat for what would almost certainly be a wild Democratic primary in 2010. White could well be the choice if Blagojevich wants to go the caretaker route but is concerned that appointing Jones would reek of cronyism. Worth noting: he has said he is not interested in the job.

* Lisa Madigan/Dan Hynes/Alexi Giannoulias: The state Attorney General, state Comptroller and state Treasurer, respectively, Madigan, Hynes and Giannoulias are considered likely to run for governor in 2010 regardless of what Blagojevich does. By naming one of them, he could eliminate a major source of competition in short order. One thing to remember: Blagojevich and Mike Madigan, the speaker of the Illinois state House (and Lisa's father) detest one another.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 13, 2008; 3:51 PM ET
Categories:  Democratic Party , Senate  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The Lieberman Conundrum
Next: Political Take: The Transition Edition!


Emil Jones is most likely the best candidate for the US State Senator. It is only right that he proceed Pres-Elect Obama. He was the only person that guided Barack Obama's career towards his becoming President of the USA.

Posted by: prudencerussell | November 15, 2008 5:09 PM | Report abuse


Lisa Madigan is Mike Madigan's step-daughter and not his daughter.


Posted by: Corey_NY | November 14, 2008 11:56 PM | Report abuse

Tammy Tammy - she is a world beater, she is smart, and ran a tough campaign for the House in a totally Republican district -- she's got more campaign chops than the other proposed candidates put together. I'd like to see the fat old white men in the Senate yak in her face about the Patriot Act, torture, and the Iraq war. BRING ON TAMMY!!!

Posted by: isthisajoke | November 14, 2008 7:37 PM | Report abuse

With a lame duck session on the calendar already, I wonder why he resigned now? Even if the governor appoints his replacement immediately, will that person be up to speed enough to participate in a responsible way in that lame duck session?

It does make one wonder if this is another example of voting "present."

Posted by: annetta3 | November 14, 2008 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Like many people, when I think of the possibility of Senator Duckworth, I can't help but think of Senator Max Cleland. I've always wondered if the voters of Georgia have had buyer's remorse for choosing Chambliss over Cleland. Could the presence of Duckworth in the Senate remind Georgians of the slime that Chambliss piled onto Cleland? Could this have an effect on the Chambliss-Martin runoff?

Naturally, Blagojevich should select a senator based on merit and the ability to best serve Illinois and the country. But this is politics, isn't it?

Posted by: dognabbit | November 14, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

It is up to the Governor of Illinois to make this appointment. He is a white male so one cannot use the race card on this one. I hope that he is fair and makes the appropriate decision because it is a very important one.

Posted by: crystalw1 | November 14, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Honestly, who cares? Just another liberal.

Posted by: lorddunsmore | November 14, 2008 10:34 AM | Report abuse

A glass ceiling for white males?
Why are only women and blacks at the top of the list to replace Obama?
We have gone so far in demonizing white males that no longer do we got for the best choice for political office.
No longer do we first ask who can do the best job in political office.
Instead, we first ask: what color are you and what sex are you?
That is exactly the racism we fought against in the 60s.

Posted by: sonnyok | November 14, 2008 9:02 AM | Report abuse

King of Zook, what a kook!

Posted by: NotBubba | November 14, 2008 8:10 AM | Report abuse

I bet Rod goes the Dick Cheney route and appoints himself. That way he gets out of the Chicago limelight to rehab his image before having to run in two years.

Posted by: Snidely1459 | November 14, 2008 5:39 AM | Report abuse

Real Brother here.

I like Jesse Jr. As long as whoever is chosen has enough sense to follow Obama's lead.

A word to these Racists, White Supremacists and Black man hating lesbians; just as we haven't forgetten that you Idiots didn't support Obama at any stage during this election process(in which you swore he'd faulter and he beat the living daylights out of everyone put before him), we will NOT forget when you are wrong about his Presidency and his eight years in office.

Mark my words(you freakin' Idiots) we will NOT forget.


Posted by: Realbrother0003 | November 13, 2008 11:28 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if Obama's decision to resign now is an indication that the Gov is ready to name his pick. Notice that without the Senator from Illinois, the Dems do not have the votes to pass a party line vote in the lame duck session and Biden, who's vote would also be needed, is not yet leaving.

Posted by: cjenns | November 13, 2008 9:17 PM | Report abuse

If they were appointed immediately, and sworn in for the 'special session' wouldn't they technically be more senior than any of the new people in the next Congress? They'd have 1 more Congress on everyone in the seniority charts (although only a few days worth)

Posted by: idiparker | November 13, 2008 8:38 PM | Report abuse

Tammy Duckworth is one-half white. Her mother is Asian.

Duckworth is hapa, just like Obama. She also grew in Hawaii, graduated from McKinley High School (public) and the University of Hawaii. Her parents live in Hawaii.

Duckworth would make a fine Senator and be eloquent testimony to the veterans of all wars.

Posted by: SamuelSHLee | November 13, 2008 8:25 PM | Report abuse

How about Jesse Jr as the new senator, and appoint Tammy as his replacement in Congress, if she lives in that district. They are both very good candidates

Posted by: tuttlegroup | November 13, 2008 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Tammy is my pick as well with Emil Jones running a close second. I do not think it's a problem that Emil is 73 and will most likely decide against running for re-election. It will be extremely hard for a Repugnican to win a senate seat in Illinois unless Jim Edgar runs.

Posted by: stew118 | November 13, 2008 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Check it out G-Rod-

You better nominate whoever Obama wants to fill his post because you are going to need a Presidential pardon in about 8 years after your conviction. I think Sarah Palin would be a better governor...

Posted by: stew118 | November 13, 2008 8:16 PM | Report abuse

the auto-makers are not going to be bailed out by the gonernment.this is going to force massive lay-offs at all helping the auto-makers,would create new jobs and help them shore up capital for the long term and allow thyem to re-tool for new fuel-efficient cars.pity" we bail out aig, wall street bankers who made their own mess through mismanagement practices. the auto-makers cant make new jobs,they will have to lay off thousands of their workers.

Posted by: Lwebb121 | November 13, 2008 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Obama swhould have kept his senate seat,he may be wishing he kept it,after his first term[4yrs] this economy is going to swirl around his ears,this will prevent him from other presidential duties,if he does not get this situration,strightened out in 4yrs bye..............bye

Posted by: Lwebb121 | November 13, 2008 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Let it be Tammy.

Posted by: mytake1 | November 13, 2008 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Let it go or wake up Obama haters. The election was more than a week ago. It was not a nightmare it really happened. Obama is President-elect and on 1/20/09 he will be the POTUS.

Jackson will be the pick. I think Duckworth is headed for Vet's Admin here.

Posted by: learnedhand1 | November 13, 2008 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Oh I know, instead of voting "Present" he can vote "Not Present" Big Loss!

Posted by: doggit1 | November 13, 2008 6:11 PM | Report abuse

It's nice to see that Obama is going to continue to earn his title as a "gutless politician" given to him by the Chicago tribune for dodging tough votes

Posted by: Bcamp55 | November 13, 2008 6:02 PM | Report abuse

In cases like this, where there's no quick special election and the choice rests entirely on one person, I think the best tack to take is to appoint a "caretaker" who has no long-term interest, and let a real election campaign take place. The shameless angling for the appointment, the inevitable questioning of the governor's motives for his pick, and the "affirmative action-esque" questions about whether another African-American or a woman or a member of some other bloc should be chosen all add up to firm case why Blago should punt the ball back to the voters.

Posted by: Budikavlan | November 13, 2008 5:45 PM | Report abuse



Tammy's the one!

Posted by: wpost4112 | November 13, 2008 5:43 PM | Report abuse

please no to jesse,jr.he's a loudmouth that's waiting on the scene.he has the same flair as his father,both has never seen a mike or camera they didn't like.

Posted by: ronaldtennillegeorgia1 | November 13, 2008 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Oprah is about at he end of her show and is looking for a new challenge.

Posted by: leapin | November 13, 2008 5:22 PM | Report abuse

"It would be just like the Libs to appoint Rahmbo."

The others in that list are the ususal hack smears, but what exactly is the issue with Emanuel that would put him in their company? And you do know he's Chief of Staff, right?

I suspect Blago will go with Jones as a caretaker and let the party sort out who their nominee will be in 2010.

Posted by: SeanC1 | November 13, 2008 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Tammy Duckworth. I'd like to see the Republicans try to pull a stunt with her like they did to Max Cleland 6 years ago. Max wasn't ready to be accused of being a traitor to the country he sacrificed 3 limbs for. Duckworth would eat their lunch and would finally give a voice to all the contemporary war veterans.

Posted by: JubalHarshaw1 | November 13, 2008 5:10 PM | Report abuse

President-elect Barack Obama said in 2004 – while he was a state legislator running for a U.S. Senate seat – that he attended services at Trinity United Church of Christ every week. This is in contrast to what Obama, as a presidential candidate, said this year after controversial anti-American remarks by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright surfaced. (Snip) ''Yep. Every week. 11 o’clock service. Ever been there? Good service.''

the change we were promised. a change in story. all you weasels can come out of the woodwork again.

In a new afterword to his memoir, 1960s radical William Ayers describes himself as a "family friend" of President-elect Barack Obama and writes that the campaign controversy over their relationship was an effort by Obama's political enemies to "deepen a dishonest narrative" about the candidate. Ayers describes phone threats and hate e-mail he received during the campaign, and he bemoans Obama's guilt by association

another cockroach

Posted by: king_of_zouk | November 13, 2008 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Who ever it is I hope they have the guts to vote yes or no and not present all the time.

Posted by: hhkeller | November 13, 2008 4:47 PM | Report abuse

I believe the Duck has the quack that is needed. Certainly deserving.

Posted by: beautiful11 | November 13, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I hope its Jesse Jackson Jr., he's a charming young man who's carries himself completely different from his senior.

Posted by: idontthinkso | November 13, 2008 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I'd go with the Duck.

It makes a lot of sense in multiple ways, having a disabled combat vet who's a white woman replace a fine patriot like Obama.

And signals that government is open to All Americans, not just the select few.

Posted by: WillSeattle | November 13, 2008 4:31 PM | Report abuse

It would be just like the Libs to appoint Rahmbo. Or ayers. Or Rezco. Obambi has so many chits out, will Blag cash them in for a pardon promise??

Posted by: king_of_zouk | November 13, 2008 4:18 PM | Report abuse

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