The election of Hillary Clinton – let alone the GOP nominee – will likely close off the oft-rumored pathway to the Supreme Court for Minnesota’s popular senior Senator

amyklobuchar20Hillary Clinton’s victory in the Iowa caucuses on Monday evening, however razor thin, may have brought Minnesota DFL U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar one step closer to running for governor in 2018.

While Clinton would have been strongly favored to capture her party’s nomination even with a loss in the Hawkeye State, a victory there along with her ever-growing list of superdelegate support keeps her on the inside lane despite grim poll numbers in New Hampshire.

Klobuchar, one of the nation’s most popular U.S. Senators, will come to the end of her second term in the chamber in two years and has seen her name come up on the short list of possible Supreme Court nominees dating back to her first term.

The likelihood of such a career change, however remote, probably approaches zero, however, if Clinton wins the White House this cycle.

To be sure, if a Republican is elected president in 2016, the former Hennepin County Attorney would not be able to reach the bench until 2021 at the earliest as no GOP president would look to the liberal U.S. Senator to replace any retiring justice.

But if Hillary Clinton is elected, that date might very well be extended to 2025 or beyond. And that all but puts Klobuchar out of the running for the bench…and thus may bring her back to the Gopher State for a gubernatorial run.

Here’s why.

In the 2008 presidential election, Senator Klobuchar had to choose between two of her colleagues when making an endorsement in the Democratic primary.

Weighing in part Obama’s overwhelming victory in the 2008 Minnesota caucuses earlier that year, Klobuchar eventually endorsed the rising Democratic star from Illinois over Clinton in March, as did most Minnesota superdelegates as part of an avalanche of superdelegates across the country that began to fall for Obama.

And while Klobuchar is backing Clinton in 2016, it seems unlikely the former Secretary of State will have a short memory and forget Klobuchar’s endorsement for her rival eight years ago should she become the 45th president and have the opportunity to nominate someone to the Court.

If that is the case, Senator Klobuchar will more than likely age out of contention for a spot on the bench and becoming Minnesota’s first female governor may become a more attractive position than remaining in D.C. with her pathway to the Court effectively closed.

Let’s begin with the scenario that Republicans win the presidency this year.

If Republicans win the White House this November and a Democrat takes it back in 2020, Senator Klobuchar will be at least 60 years old when she would have the earliest opportunity to receive a nomination to the Court.

And that is probably too old.

Over the last five decades since William Rehnquist joined the Court in 1971, 12 of the 13 nominees confirmed by the U.S. Senate were in their 40s or 50s.

The only justice that was older was Ruth Bader Ginsberg (at 60) in 1993.

Of the 38 justices confirmed since Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933, just six were 60+ years old: James Byrnes in 1941 (62), Earl Warren in 1954 (62), Warren Burger in 1969 (61), Harry Blackmun in 1970 (61), Lewis Powell in 1971 (64), and Ginsberg.

Perhaps now more than ever, presidents are trying to thread the needle of nominating a man or woman who is experienced enough to sail through U.S. Senate confirmation hearings and the floor vote, but also young enough to enhance their legacy by presiding for decades on the bench.

And what if Clinton is elected?

[Note: A Democratic victory in 2016 (by Clinton or Sanders) would be historically unusual on its face. Since the founding of the party in 1828, Democrats have strung together more than two consecutive White House victories just twice: in 1828-1832-1836 (Andrew Jackson x2 and Martin Van Buren) and 1932-1936-1940-1944-1948 (Franklin Roosevelt x4 and Harry Truman). Republicans, meanwhile, have done so four times: 1860 through 1880, 1896 through 1908, 1920 through 1928, and 1980 through 1988.]

If Clinton wins in 2016, she would almost certainly run for reelection and thus the earliest a Democrat other than Clinton would sit in the White House is likely 2025.

At that time, Klobuchar would be nearly 65, and only two Supreme Court nominees in history were confirmed at the age of 65 or older: Horace Lurton was 65 in 1909 and Charles Evans Hughes was 67 for his second stint on the Court in 1930.

Would a gubernatorial run appeal to Klobuchar?

Senator Klobuchar has made history twice before and may be interested in doing so a third time.

Klobuchar was the first woman to serve as Hennepin County Attorney and the first elected to the U.S. Senate from Minnesota (Muriel Humphrey was appointed to the post in 1978).

Minnesota is one of nearly two-dozen states that have never had a female governor, but there is good reason to believe Klobuchar would be both the favorite to win the DFL nomination as well as the general election were she to run.

The senior U.S. Senator from the Gopher State consistently enjoys high approval ratings and a recent Morning Consult survey ranked her tied for the sixth highest marks from her constituents with 67 percent approving of her job performance.

Moreover, a gubernatorial run would be a smart move as Klobuchar has also been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate almost as often as a Supreme Court justice, and serving as governor would certainly be a prominent bullet point on her political resume toward that end.

Since statehood there have been seven Minnesotans to serve as governor and U.S. Senator, but only two served in D.C. first: Farmer Laborite Elmer Benson and DFLer Mark Dayton.

Republicans Alexander Ramsey, Cushman Davis, Knute Nelson, and Edward Thye and DFLer Wendy Anderson first served as governor and were then elected (or appointed) to the U.S. Senate.

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  1. Bob Collins on February 4, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    That this rumor is still being repeated is abysmal.

    • Dr. Eric Ostermeier on February 4, 2016 at 4:21 pm

      But the rumors, as you say, do continue. And, as a counterpoint to your conclusion made six years ago that Sen. Klobuchar cannot possibly be interested in becoming a Supreme Court justice because she stated this publicly, I offer the public statements of many presidential candidates in the years prior to launching their White House campaigns. For the Supreme Court, it is particularly unseemly to suggest otherwise, considering such a nomination is not something within one’s control.

  2. Nikoli Orr on February 4, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    If a R ends up being the first-term president as of 2020 (Rubio? Cruz? even Kasich?), a Governor Klobuchar bid, as she would be sworn in around the first/second week of January 2019, might well be just too awkward/obtuse (former FL US Senator Bob Graham was passed over as vice presidential mate of “The Duke” in 1988 in part because he became a senator just the year before; even BHO would likely have sat out for the 2008 cycle, had he become US senator in january 2007!).

    • Eric Ostermeier on February 4, 2016 at 11:12 pm

      Agreed. The presidential bid scenario would need to be for 2024 after a hypothetical GOV reelection victory in 2022. (This cycle has shown one can be a competitive White House hopeful at 65+ years old).

  3. Nikoli Orr on February 4, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    Another point: Klobuchar ought to consider herself fortunate that she did not face any intraparty opponent, at least not one backed up by the vaunted Clinton Machine (“organisation” in outwardly genteel Berniespeak). As many perusers and commenters of these Posts are well aware, in 2012, a number of Congressional incumbents who backed BHO over H Diane Rodham (Clinton) for the ’08 nomination faced the wrath of the Machine, and were then ejected from the hallowed halls of Congress (BTW, she would be expected to have LONG memories – a pachyderm’s memory, befitting a onetime “Goldwater Gal”).

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