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.

Neither is ahead in any polls, though Paul has made his mark on the campaign with big fundraising numbers and 10 percent finishes in early primary states. Given Paul's libertarian bent, he's unlikely to endorse any of the other Republicans running. In 2004, Kucinich waited until the last moment -- literally just short of the Democratic National Convention -- to endorse Sen. John Kerry's bid.

Ghosts of Candidates Past

This has been a particularly packed election cycle, but the halls of Congress are littered with candidates past.

On the Democratic side, there are also the two men from Massachusetts.

Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., contemplated several bids and finally ran for president in 1980 against the incumbent Democrat, Jimmy Carter, but fell short in that primary battle.

John Kerry, Kennedy's junior Senate colleague, lost in a close contest in 2004 against President Bush. Kerry's running mate in 2004, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, is at it again this year but lags in the polls.

Across the aisle, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., ran twice -- first in 1996, when he lasted until Super Tuesday, and most recently in 2000, when he drove around the country in a Ford Explore but didn't make it to the first primary.

Alexander, who was governor of Tennessee for much of the 1980s and secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush, did not come to the Senate until after his two failed bids.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is far from the first woman to aspire to the Oval Office -- she's not even the first political spouse to attempt the feat.

Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., made a run in 2000, after her husband, former Sen. Bob Dole, made runs in 1992 and 1996. In the latter instance, Dole won the Republican nomination but lost the general election to former President Bill Clinton.

Mrs. Dole pulled out of the 2000 race in October, before the first primary, winning her Senate seat two years later.

Neither Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid nor Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has run for president, but both of their predecessors, Sens. Bill Frist of Tennessee and Tom Daschle of South Dakota seriously considered runs.

Neither did but both have now left the Senate: Frist by choice in 2006, Daschle by the choice of South Dakota voters in 2004.

And while there are any number of Congress members to be found roaming the halls after a failed White House bid, only one, John Quincy Adams, returned to Congress after actually serving as president.

Adams, the first son to win his father's old job, went from the House to the White House but returned again to Congress after losing re-election to Andrew Jackson.

Even according to his White House biography, Adams seems more fond of Congress than the executive branch.

It is reported there that in 1848, Adams "collapsed on the floor of the House from a stroke and was carried to the speaker's room, where two days later he died."