Rep. Giffords rocketed to national prominence after an assassination attempt by an unstable left leaning gunman in January. While her medical recovery has been remarkable considering that she was critically shot in the head, she has not returned to represent her district since the assassination attempt. In fact, only a fortnight after the shooting, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA 47th) made a move to boot Giffords off of the House Armed Services Committee, since Democrats had fewer committee slots in the minority and Giffords obviously would not be present.
The PPP results are not surprising after months of fawning press coverage in the shock of the shooting, her encouraging medical recovery and the soap opera as to whether Giffords would be healthy enough to attend the penultimate launch of the Space Shuttle, piloted by her husband Captain Mark Kelly. The PPP survey is early within the election cycle, so it denotes more name recognition than organization or actual support.
The Senate has had its share of superannuated Senators who have struggled with serious health issues while in office. Senator Strom Thurmond (D & R SC) remained in the Upper Chamber until he hit the century mark despite his increasingly frail physical and mental condition. Although it seemed that Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) retained most of his formidable legislative wits during his 56 ½ years in the Senate, it seems that there was more of a determination by Byrd and voters to break the longest serving Senator record than to legislate. There were concerns that after Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) suffered a serious stroke in December 2006 that he would be unable to effectively govern. But South Dakota voters re-elected him in 2008. Sen. Johnson was able to return to work several months after the medical trauma and he has only missed 5% of recorded votes over his career.
As she began her third term Rep. Giffords had developed a reputation as an attractive, youthful Blue Dog Democrat, but who had only won re-election by a slim 1.4% In fact, Giffords voted against House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 6th) just days before the attack, presumably to distance herself from the progressive Democrat caucus. But those credentials comprise a pretty thin reed in order to base a Senate campaign.
Gifford’s district has lacked congressional representation for five months and presumably for the foreseeable future. It is troubling to think that a politician who is not well enough to return to her elected role as legislator is now being touted for the Senate. Until Giffords makes a Sherman-esque statement against running, it will retard other Democrats from entering the race.
Although Arizona does have a state statute regarding the vacancy of a public office if the duties are not discharged in 90 days. But the state law might be constitutionally pre-empted by Congress’ ability in Article I, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution which makes each chamber of Congress the judge of the qualifications of its members. Besides, considering all of the sympathetic press from the Lamestream Media for Gifford’s condition, pressing this issue would be political suicide.
Psephologists deem the 2012 Election cycle as being difficult for Democrats as they will have to defend 22 of 33 seats up for election. Democrat party hacks may consider Sen. Kyl’s retirement combined with tide of sympathy for Rep. Giffords as an opportunity for a pick up. This is cynical politics which is selling a chimera candidate that voters see what they want in her figurehead.
May Gabrielle Giffords continue her medical recovery. God willing, she may be able to return to represent her constituents in Tuscon. But Giffords should not be pushed into a Senate race that she can not vigorously campaign nor effectively legislate at this time.