Ghosts of Elections Past Return to Congress

There are supposed to be three separate but equal branches of government in the United States. But while they're technically part of an equal branch, the lawmakers in the Congress could be said to leer jealously down at the White House.

No president has been elected directly from the Congress since Sen. John F. Kennedy in 1960, and you have to go all the way back to Rep. James A. Garfield in 1881 to find a member of the House of Representatives who jumped directly to the presidency.

But that hasn't stopped senators and House reps, but especially senators, from trying.

Longing for Pennsylvania Avenue

The old joke, oft-repeated but not easily attributed, is that there are 100 people in the U.S. Senate and all 100 of them wake up in the morning and see a future president in the mirror.

And it's true one can hardly turn around in the halls of Congress without running into someone who has campaigned for the job down the street at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Two more people have joined that exclusive subset of also-rans in the self-proclaimed "world's greatest deliberative body" as Sens. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Joe Biden, D-Del., recently returned to their well-worn Capitol offices.

And as if to reassert their legislative might, the two veteran legislators and powerful committee chairmen both held press conferences this week. Dodd, chairing the Banking Committee, gathered reporters Wednesday, and Biden, reassuming the helm of the Foreign Relations Committee, summoned the Fourth Estate Thursday.

He's not a committee chairman but Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., returned to his day job after an unsuccessful presidential bid last year.

Dodd and Biden both made it through the first primary voting at the Iowa caucus, but Brownback dropped out in August after a disappointing showing in a traditional straw poll of Republicans.

Some budding presidential campaigns ended before they began.

Sens. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis., opted out of presidential runs. Maybe it was a good call -- after all, they never insulted the future party nominee -- they never cost him or her a single vote; and of course, there will be a vice presidential slot on the eventual ticket.

People's House, Few Presidents

There are fewer presidential aspirants in the people's House, otherwise known as the House of Representatives, where things are a bit more raucous during debates and the sheer number of congressmen make the members a bit more anonymous.

Only five congressmen -- four Republicans and one Democrat -- mounted presidential bids in the 2008 cycle.

Repc. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., have both dropped out and endorsed former Govs. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, respectively.

Both have also decided not to seek re-election to their House seats, in all liklihood concluding not just their presidential plans, but their political careers as well.

Only Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., on the Republican side and Rep. Dennis Kucinch, D-Ohio., contending with four other Democrats, remain in the race and representing the hopes of moving a House member down the road.

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