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The fine art of falling up

The fine art of falling up
The fine art of falling up

Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona has held the #2 slot in the Senate Republican leadership for the last several years, but he's retiring next month, creating a new opportunity for an ambitious GOP senator. Yesterday, we learned who's getting the gig.

Though there were other possible candidates, Texas Republican John Cornyn quickly emerged as Kyl's successor after Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) announced his intention to stay on as Senate Republican Conference chairman rather than seek a promotion. This is, of course, the same Cornyn who's wrapping his tenure as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Ed Kilgore picked up on the problem here.

Man, that's some serious social promotion. This cycle Cornyn, with the most favorable landscape (Democrats holding 23 of the 33 seats up) in living memory and with more money behind him than Croesus, managed to lose two net Senate seats. Sure, Romney didn't help by losing, but by my quick count, Republican Senate candidates ran behind Mitt in 23 states.Since he's not exactly known as a legislative dynamo, either, you have to figure Cornyn is either personally popular with his peers, or just reflects their views unusually well. But his upward mobility makes you wonder about the GOP's supposedly overriding commitment to rewarding success.

Quite right. On Capitol Hill, chairing the campaign committees is generally seen as a high-risk/high-reward proposition. If you, your caucus, and your slate of candidates do well, it gives your career an enormous boost (see Emanuel, Rahm circa 2006). If the cycle goes poorly, be prepared to take a lot of blame. It's why so many Democrats turned down the 2012 DSCC gig, before Patty Murray did such an impressive job.

But Cornyn offers an example of falling up -- he failed rather spectacularly at the NRSC, and for that, he'll be promoted by his Republican colleagues.