Are the ‘Beautiful’ People on the Hill Cursed?

National Journal
Billy House
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Billy House
Aug. 8, 2013, 3:30 p.m.

There’s the curse of the Bambino. The curse of the Hope Dia­mond. And now, maybe, there’s the curse of The Hill news­pa­per’s an­nu­al “50 Most Beau­ti­ful” list.

Of the 59 mem­bers of Con­gress who have ap­peared on the list from 2004 through 2012, 37 per­cent even­tu­ally lost reelec­tion, failed in a cam­paign for high­er of­fice, re­tired, or resigned in scan­dal.

So says polit­ic­al sci­ent­ist Eric Os­ter­mei­er, a re­search as­so­ci­ate at the Cen­ter for the Study of Polit­ics and Gov­ernance at the Uni­versity of Min­nesota, in his blog, Smart Polit­ics.

“Un­for­tu­nately, for many, it’s all down­hill,” Os­ter­mei­er wrote.

Among the folks on the list are former Sens. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and John Ed­wards, D-N.C., and former Reps. Mary Bono Mack, R-Cal­if., Jesse Jack­son Jr., D-Ill., Gene Taylor, D-Miss., and Stephanie Her­seth Sand­lin, D-S.D. Look­ing ahead to the 2014 cycle, at least one oth­er “Most Beau­ti­ful” honoree from Con­gress—Rep. Michele Bach­mann, R-Minn.—has already an­nounced she is not run­ning for reelec­tion, Os­ter­mei­er notes.

Of course, wheth­er this pat­tern is really un­nat­ur­al is de­bat­able. The rate of down­fall for those on The Hill’s list may not ex­ceed the rate for all of Con­gress. Yet it is in­ter­est­ing—if not fun—to see what misery can oc­cur to the beau­ti­ful people.

“I first thought to crunch the [num­bers] on these lists be­cause the honorees are sort of presen­ted as not just ‘beau­ti­ful’ but also ‘up-and-comers’ and soon to be big shots on the Hill,” Os­ter­mei­er told Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily.

“So when a fair num­ber of these of­fice­hold­ers star­ted los­ing elec­tions, in 2010 and 2012 es­pe­cially, that drew my at­ten­tion. That, and the fact that a hand­ful of these ‘beau­ti­ful’ people have been in­volved in scan­dals in or out of of­fice,” Os­ter­mei­er ad­ded, re­fer­ring to Ed­wards, Jack­son, former Sen. John En­sign, R-Nev., and former Rep. Vito Fosella, R-N.Y.

In all, he found 10 law­makers lost reelec­tion bids; five were de­feated seek­ing high­er pub­lic of­fice; two resigned in scan­dal; and five re­tired from pub­lic life.

Os­ter­mei­er is known to pick up odd and in­ter­est­ing trends in polit­ics. His re­search earli­er this year in­cluded an ex­am­in­a­tion of the causes of death for the thou­sands of people who have served in Con­gress over the last 200 years or so. Among his find­ings: Nearly two dozen have been killed by or on trains.

But his latest re­search does not ne­ces­sar­ily spell doom for the law­makers in The Hill‘s list, people like Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ar­iz., and Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Reps. Tulsi Gab­bard, D-Hawaii, Fre­der­ica Wilson, D-Fla., and Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas. Be­cause fully 37 of the 59 law­makers Os­ter­mei­er looked at are still hold­ing of­fice.

Among them are Speak­er John Boehner, R-Ohio., and Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal­if. And Pres­id­ent Obama, too.

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