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Lott Will Finish Term, Even if Barbour Wins

Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) pledged Monday to serve out the remaining three years of his term even as some Mississippi Republicans became increasingly upbeat about the chances of their gubernatorial nominee, Haley Barbour, in today’s elections.

“Absolutely,” Lott said of his intentions to serve out his term. “I don’t know how many times I have to say it.”

After his fall from leadership last December, Lott was engulfed in rumors that he would resign rather than return to being a back bencher. The speculation was at least partly fueled by Lott allies who seemed to be threatening that the lawmaker would do just that and allow Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D) to appoint a Democratic successor.

After Lott did not step down, rumors continued to persist that he would resign if and when Barbour won the governor’s race, allowing Barbour to appoint a GOP successor.

The most likely successor mentioned is Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.), a former aide to Lott and son of U.S. Judge Charles Pickering.

Despite all of those interwoven connections — Rep. Pickering’s campaigns are also run by Henry Barbour, the gubernatorial nominee’s nephew who is also managing the gubernatorial campaign — Lott explained Monday that there is no incentive for him to exit early even if he wanted to.

Mississippi law calls for a quick special election, and an appointed successor to Lott would not have much advantage, he said.

Lott has not made any final decision about whether he would run for re-election in 2006.

The former Republican leader joked that he is enjoying his new role as Rules and Administration chairman, as well as sometimes tweaking the Bush administration and others who sparked his demise.

“Plus, I’m not that mad about what I’m doing, giving everyone a little heartburn,” he said.

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