by Max Brantley
In the developing group portrait of potential candidates in the U.S. Senate race next year, we keep looking for Waldo -- Gilbo actually -- in the motley crew of Republicans that has begun mustering.
The political tom-toms have been beating this week. Said one rumor:. Sen. Gilbert Baker definitely has decided TO run. Said another: He definitely has decided NOT to run. (If anything the reports saying the decision was in the NEGATIVE, predominated.) OK, so I bit. I asked him..
What's definite is that he has not made a decision.
But maybe I've uncovered a hint or two. He said it matters not if there's a primary contest or if Sen. Kim Hendren, who hails from Republican-heavy Benton County, runs. "Any Republican who doesn't think there should be a primary shouldn't be in the race."
There are two factors, one more important than the other. Lesser factor: He enjoys the legislature and the success he's achieved as a senator from the minority party. Greater factor: Family. "The main thing for me is that I still have children at home. I cannot step into a U.S. Senate race unless I feel like I can do it in a way that won't take away from those guys. That's the bottom line."
Five sons remain at home -- aged 9, 11, 13, 15 and 18 (a recent high school graduate)
He doesn't know when or how he'll ultimately decide. But he said his wife is supportive. And he said this:
"We did a little poll at our house. Of course it was anonymous. [Baker, you may recall, is a leader in the effort to require secret ballots in union elections by constitutional amendment.] Four out of five said, 'yes, Dad, run.'"
Most politicians would call 80 percent a mandate. On the other hand, five kids at home is five kids at home. And I doubt they'd be moving to Washington.
This weekend, Baker is heading to New Orleans for the 35th reunion of his high school class. You'll find him at Cafe Du Monde with beignets, not Pat O'Brien's with a Hurricane.
PS -- Yes, he knows some people think time is slipping -- or maybe already has slipped -- away to get into a race with incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln. "But I'm just not going to step in until I believe I can stay true to my first responsibility, being a father. What the time frame is on that, I don't know."
Rumor me no more rumors.
PPS -- Oh, hell, one more. A guy who knows a guy who knows a guy and who has been reliable on occasion in the past says I can take it to the bank. Baker IS NOT RUNNING FOR U.S. SENATE.