Lott's Departure Precedes Ethics Restrictions

In any case, Lott's departure and Craig's bad press could cause Republicans to commit additional resources in those states and make it more difficult for them to erase Democrats' razor-thin majority in the Senate.

Simply put, they will have more open seats (23 with a special election in Mississippi to name a successor to Lott) than Democrats and their 12 senators up for re-election.

Lott's Rapid Rise, Sudden Fall

Lott was the Republican leader in the Senate who oversaw the unsuccessful impeachment trial of President Clinton in the late '90s.

He lost his leadership position after an off-hand remark at a birthday party for Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., in 2002, sparked a political outcry.

In feting Thurmond, Lott said, "When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years, either."

Thurmond had run for president in 1948 as a segregationist Dixiecrat, and Lott's comments were considered by many to be inappropriate; he resigned his leadership post within weeks.

Resigning as Republican leader was undoubtedly the nadir of Lott's political career, but it also set up a miraculous political recovery.

Announcing his resignation in Pascagoula, Lott conceded, "This is not something that is negative or trying to rewrite or change history."

"It is what it is," he said. "I have been on mountaintops and down in valleys. I took a few licks, I made some mistakes. When you get in the leadership, you get out on the pint and you get your nose bloody."

Lott Rises Again

Lott was first elected to the Senate in 1988 after already serving 16 years in the House of Representatives, Lott held leadership posts in both bodies. Most notably, Lott was the Republican leader in the Senate for six years, from 1999 through 2002 -- five of those as Senate majority leader.

After his precipitous fall from the Republican leadership, Lott had also worked hard to regain his stature in the Republican party. His election as Whip earlier this year -- the number two Republican in the Senate in charge of counting votes and enforcing the party line among colleagues -- signaled a redemption for him.

That post will now likely fall to either Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., currently the number three Republican as Conference Chairman, or Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who was edged out by Lott when Democrats took control of Congress early this year.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, has already said she won't seek re-election in 2012 and may resign earlier to run for governor of Texas in 2010.

Sounds of Silence from Singing Senators

It is a part of his legacy that won't get much play this week as he announces his resignation. But when Lott resigns from the Senate this year and when Sen. Larry Craig opts against running for reelection next year, it will be the death knell of the barbershop quartet known as the Singing Senators.

Lott and Craig are the only two of the four singing senators still in office.

Former Senator John Ashcroft, R-Mo., lost a reelection battle in 2000 and went on to become President Bush's first Attorney General. Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., alienated himself from hi barershop counterparts when he switched parties in 2001.

The group's popularity peaked in the period from 1995, when they appeared on the Today Show, to 1998, when they released their CD "Let Freedom Ring."

Ashcroft, Lott and Craig gave a trio performance back in June of 2007.

Lott had been rumored to be on the hunt for new talent. Prospects included Senator Bob Bennett, R-Utah, and Senator John Thune, R-S.D.

Senator Lott's resignation all but assures little hope of a reunion, officially relagating the Singing Senators to the annals of Congressional minutiae.

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