THE PLANK FEBRUARY 26, 2009
Roland Burris is obviously going to put "U.S. Senator" on his mausoleum, but I can think of another entry that might belong there, as well: "Destroyer of the Illinois Democratic Party."
Here's the dilemma Burris has created for his fellow Illinois Dems by refusing to resign. Burris not only denies the state's Democratic Governor Pat Quinn the power to appoint another Democrat to serve out the Senate term until a special election can be held in 2010; his continued presence in the Senate threatens to cast a cloud over those elections and hurt the Demcorats' chances in them. So why not just effectively remove Burris from office by having a special election this spring? Because such a move might very well hand the seat to the GOP, since the Republicans have one obvious candidate in Mark Kirk to rally around, and the Democrats have a slew of them--ranging from Jan Schakowsky to Danny Davis to Jesse White--who might split the vote. (Which is presumably why Illinois Dems appear reluctant to hold a special election.) In other words, the Dems will have a hard time winning with Burris in the Senate and a hard time winning without him there.
Unless Illinois Democrats can find one candidate for an '09 special election who would unite the party and trounce Kirk. And, actually, I can think of one Illinois Dem who could do just that: Michelle Obama. She has a 49 percent approval rating (paired with just a 5 percent disapproval rating) and is almost certainly even more popular in her home state. More importantly, at a time when the federal government is going to be showering money on the states, she could credibly argue to Illinois voters that they'd certainly get their share.
Of course, some might say it would be inappropriate for a sitting First Lady to also be a U.S. Senator (although Hillary Clinton managed to perform both roles for a couple weeks in January 2001). So, if Michelle's unavailable, what about her mother, Marian Robinson? At 71, she's the same age as Burris, and she could pledge to merely serve out the remainder of the current term and not run in the 2010 elections. Plus, she's already in Washington--having moved into the White House with the Obamas--so she wouldn't have to relocate. I can already see her campaign slogan: "If I'm a good enough caretaker for my grandchildren, I'm a good enough caretaker for that Senate seat!"