October 14, 2003


After ending presidential bid, Graham enjoys family and friends (JOEL ESKOVITZ, October 13, 2003, Naples News)

Maybe someone out there knows what Sen. Bob Graham is going to do now that his presidential campaign has ended and his Senate seat is up for grabs in 2004.

But the odds are that the only people who have a strong sense of Graham's next step are his wife, Adele, and his four daughters. After all, this is the same man who announced his decision on the presidency last week on CNN's "Larry King Live" to the shock of many members of his senior campaign staff.

Graham spokesman Paul Anderson still expects his decision on the Senate race will come in "days not weeks," leading many to expect the full-scale start of the election year as early as this week. Whatever Graham decides will not only resonate around the Sunshine State but throughout the entire Democratic Party and its chances of taking back power in the Senate.

Graham has spent the past week decompressing with friends and family, and rumors of a pending announcement have been commonplace in Florida and the nation's capital. Yet campaign staffs, party members and experts are still in the dark as to what he will say.

"It's kind of hard to figure," said Jennifer Duffy, who tracks the Senate race for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "Everybody in Washington thinks he's not going to run and everybody in Florida thinks he is."

Sure, Democratic leaders have been calling the state's senior senator to let him know they support whatever decision he makes. But they've also taken a moment to just mention how the party really could use his help.

With Republicans holding just 51 of the 100 seats in the Senate and several Democratic incumbents retiring in the South, a candidate with Graham's name recognition and resume - 17 years as a U.S. senator and eight as Florida's governor - is seen as a key in any map that shows the Democrats winning back the Senate.

They'll be closer to 40 than 50 after next November and it's very hard to believe that Mr. Graham wants to stick around for that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 14, 2003 11:57 PM

Look, 60 would be phenomenal, and the dems are so self-destructive that it's just possible. On the other hand, these guys have a delusional confidence in their beliefs. And the liberals who follow them are inherently incapable of changing. There are 9 men running for president who think they can win, never mind thinking they are competant to be our leader. I suspect, in the end, it'll be 52-48, which is why Graham will stick it out.

Posted by: neil at October 15, 2003 12:30 AM

I'm a bit more optimistic, 55-45 GOP even with Graham running.
Bush's numbers have been improving a bit lately as has the economy. I don't know what the deadline is to get a Senate campaign up and running but if things better for the GOP in '04 perhaps they'll get some more high-quality candidates to take on Dem incumbents.

Posted by: AWW at October 15, 2003 8:30 AM

John East

Posted by: oj at October 15, 2003 9:30 AM

John East?? what does this cryptic comment mean?

Posted by: AWW at October 15, 2003 11:55 AM

Paula Hawkins

Posted by: OJ at October 15, 2003 12:11 PM

East and Hawkins were two of the senators who got elected in 1980 with Ronnie. The Republicans were so used to losing those seats they couldn't get good people to run. So when Reagan proved to have coattails, there was the unfortunate side effect of a lot of one termers came along with him, and in 1986, running on their own, the Dems took back the Senate.

Similar things happened in the 1994 House races. There were a number of Republicans that won in normally Democrat districts. Under normal circumstances, they'd have little chance of winning, and it showed in that a number of them only lasted one or two terms. (Here in the Upper Left Washington for example, see Linda Smith.)

Unfortunately, right now there seem to be a lot a winnable senate seats where the same thing's going to happen.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 15, 2003 12:50 PM

While Graham will go into any re-election bid as the favorite, remember, he's spent the past six months making all kinds of loopy statements about Bush and the war on terrorism that he'll have to defend come next fall. If the Democrats end up nominating someome like Dean for president, whose foreign policy statements have been almost, but not quite, as tinfoil-hattish as Bob's have been, then it's hard to see that many people even in Florida splitting their tickets and voting for Bush at the top, followed by a man who have voiced diametrically opposite views from the president on all the major issues of the campaign.

Posted by: John at October 15, 2003 3:46 PM