25 June 2007

This Just In: Byrd Old

In this story today from The Associated Press, I try to provide context to the latest conjecture brought on by the advanced age of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.

I talked to Larry Sabato, who contrasted Byrd's recent appearances with that of the late Strom Thurmond, in the years before the South Carolina Republican left the Senate in 2003.

Sabato also cited history to opine that governors court voter wrath by arranging to have themselves appointed to open Senate seats.

This scenario has been bandied about regarding Byrd's seat since at least 1993, when Gaston Caperton was governor and I had a brief stint covering the statehouse.

I noted earlier the wave of stories spurred by Byrd's age. I should also note that his age was an issue before voters re-elected him to a record ninth term last year with 64 percent of the vote.

The first TV ad anywhere during the 2006 election cycle was an anti-Byrd spot from the Republican National Senatorial Committee, in an apparent effort to shake Byrd's resolve to run. His GOP opponent, John Raese, also played the age card by seizing on a radio interview Byrd did during the campaign.

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