Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), in perhaps the least-discussed Senate race in the country, offered a strong hint as to why he's running for a seventh term during a recent interview.
As the Times Argus reported all the way back on August 21:
The future of the Supreme Court is one of the reasons Leahy wants to return to the U.S. Senate for another six years, adding to his long career in Washington. He's been elected continually by the state since he was 34 years old in 1974. If Obama is elected to another term in 2012, Leahy said he would have the opportunity to help confirm 3-4 more Supreme Court judges.
"I certainly want to be there for that," he said with a grin, reflecting the impact that a liberal Democrat could potentially have on the direction of the Supreme Court.
Three to four court vacancies over the next six years seems to be an unguardedly wishful prediction on Leahy's part as to how the current justices will approach their future tenures. For starters, it presumes a second term for Obama. Moreover, the composition of the court is relatively young and two of its oldest members are of the liberal bent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 77, and Stephen Breyer is 72. Justice Antonin Scalia is 74 but has shown no signs of slowing down (certainly, he'd be inclined to wave off retirement till after the 2016 election). Justice Anthony Kennedy, the perennial swing vote, is 74. But retirement rumors have not been swirling around him either.
The broader point Leahy was making is very real though. The post of chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee is a powerful one. And while its impact on Vermont politics may be limited, it is the type of position that compels a six-term senator in a relatively safe Democratic seat to forego early retirement. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn), who chairs the Banking Committee, was in a similar position not too long ago. But ethics scandals compelled the longtime Connecticut Democrat to bow out of the race more than a year before serious campaigning started.
(Hat tip: Polising.com)