WASHINGTON – Sen. Larry Craig has all but dropped any notion of trying to complete his term, and is focused on helping Idaho send a new senator to Washington within a few weeks, his top spokesman said Thursday.
"The most likely scenario, by far, is that by October there will be a new senator from Idaho," Craig spokesman Dan Whiting told the Associated Press.
The only circumstances in which Craig might try to complete his term, Whiting said, would require a prompt overturning of his conviction for disorderly conduct in a men's room at the Minneapolis airport, as well as Senate GOP leaders' agreement to restore Craig's committee leaderships posts taken away this week.
Those scenarios are unlikely, Whiting said.
Craig, a three-term Republican, met Wednesday with Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, R, to discuss a transition in which Otter would name his Senate replacement, Whiting said. Even if Craig were to complete his term, he said, the senator would not seek re-election in 2008.
Whiting said Craig remains intent on clearing his name through the legal process in Minnesota and by having the Senate ethics committee address his claim that his misdemeanor conviction should not be a matter for action by the panel.
Craig had announced Saturday his intention to resign by Sept. 30, after a police report alleged he had solicited sex from a male officer at the Minneapolis airport in June. He then reversed course to challenge the guilty plea he entered in August, and hinted that he might try to complete his term, which ends in early 2009.
Senate Republican leaders, who generally praised Craig's original statement of his intent to resign, were alarmed by the shift in tone. On Wednesday they renewed their efforts to persuade him to step aside.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., spoke by phone with Craig on Wednesday and later told reporters: "I thought he made the correct decision, the difficult but correct decision to resign" on Saturday. "That would still be my view today."
At a closed luncheon of GOP senators Wednesday, several colleagues applauded McConnell's tough stance against Craig. A few senators said they thought McConnell had moved too hastily against a senator convicted of a misdemeanor in a matter unrelated to Congress's work, but a larger number backed the leader's approach, participants said.
For replacements, Otter said he was considering Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, all Republicans. Jon Hanian, Otter's spokesman, said two more Republicans — former state lawmaker Dane Watkins and former Idaho Lt. Gov. David Leroy — had also expressed interest in the post.
The Senate ethics committee this week rebuffed a request by Craig's attorney, Stanley Brand, that it not investigate a complaint against the senator because events were "wholly unrelated" to his official duties. The panel's leaders said they believe Senate rules give them authority to investigate any "improper conduct, which may reflect upon the Senate."
A second attorney for Craig was in Minnesota, evidently preparing to file papers seeking to have the senator's guilty plea withdrawn.