If Republicans win a Senate majority in the Nov. 4 elections, the
party's new governing responsibilities may force potential 2016
presidential candidates such as Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz
of Texas to take uncomfortable votes that open them to criticism
from rivals outside of Congress.
While they would have the opportunity to pass legislation on
projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline that are important to
conservative voters, a thin Senate majority could hamper their
ability to deliver on big promises to shrink government and cut
That would open the door for rivals who are current or former state
governors to campaign against Washington and its unpopular
lawmakers, including the Republicans in charge of the House of
Representatives and the Senate.
"Anybody who's a senator who's running for president is obviously
always in jeopardy for votes they have to cast. It is an advantage
that governors have over them," said Republican strategist Charlie
Black, an adviser to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and
Arizona Senator John McCain during their presidential campaigns.
Some governors with an eye on 2016 are already looking to exploit
their edge over senators.
"I am convinced that the next president of the United States is
going to be a governor," New Jersey Governor Christie, a likely 2016
contender, said at the Chamber of Commerce in Washington last week.
"We have had the experiment of a legislator who’d never run anything
getting on-the-job training," he said, knocking President Barack
Obama, a former senator from Illinois.
Governor Rick Perry of Texas, another likely 2016 contender, is
quick to highlight his state's economic successes and his role as
the state's chief executive in delivering them. If they start their
own campaigns, others like former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal would no doubt do the same.
But Black and other Republicans said Senate control also could help
potential 2016 candidates Cruz, Rubio, Rob Portman of Ohio and Rand
Paul of Kentucky by giving them frequent opportunities to shine.
"I think it's all positive," Paul told Reuters in an interview.
'WE'LL START PASSING LEGISLATION'
"I think if we take over the Senate ... we'll actually start passing
legislation," Paul said. "There were 400 bills passed in the House
last year and not one of them was taken up in the Senate."
That could lead to potentially tough votes on contentious issues
such as raising the debt ceiling, keeping the federal government
open, reforming the tax code and confirming potential presidential
Cabinet or Supreme Court appointments.
[to top of second column]
It also could give the party's senators a chance to show they can
govern responsibly and compromise when needed, Portman said.
Republicans are seen as taking the lead on that, in passing
legislation, I think it helps," he said in an interview. "If we get
a majority Senate, there's a chance that you could get the president
to the table, though Republicans would have to do their part in
Cruz, a hero of the conservative Tea Party who championed last
year's government shutdown, has tried to put blame on Democrats in
advance if a Republican-ruled Senate is unable to pass legislation.
He wrote in a recent USA Today opinion piece that Republicans would
pass bills in 2015 or "expose an obstructionist" president.
"We will either pass a serious agenda to address the real priorities
of the American people - protecting our constitutional rights and
pulling us back from the fiscal and economic cliff - or the
Democrats will filibuster or veto these bills," Cruz wrote. "If they
do so, we will have transparency and accountability for the very
But Democrats said if Republicans control both houses of Congress it
will make it tough for the party's presidential hopefuls to sidestep
blame for Washington's ills.
"Senators in that group will have a particular hurdle to try to
clear with their own level of responsibility for what’s happening or
not happening in Congress," said Michael Feldman, a former adviser
to Vice President Al Gore.
"It’s also harder to run from 'outside Washington' if someone’s
fulltime job is in Washington," he said. "Governors have an easier
time making those arguments."
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Gabriel Debenedetti; Editing by John
Whitesides and Cynthia Osterman)
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