Why is it so tough for senators? For starters, they’re perceived as “talkers” while others, especially governors, are seen as “doers.” While senators like to claim authorship of important federal legislation, that’s a decidedly mixed blessing. Voters, with help from the opposition party, are also made familiar with their “nay” votes. More often than not, having a “record” in the Senate is a drawback. As John Kerry discovered, Senate votes can be hard to explain during a campaign conducted in sound bites.
In a broader sense, the biggest hurdle for most senators is that they’re viewed as creatures of Washington, insiders who belong to the “World’s Most Exclusive Club” but are detached from the realities of everyday life. This is especially true in today’s political environment and within the Republican Party in particular. People may like individual senators, but they hate Washington — and Congress has the worst job approval ratings in history to prove it.
Sen. Obama managed to successfully sidestep this issue in 2008 by casting himself as someone who had yet to be “corrupted” by the ways of Washington — an argument aided by the fact that some of his main competitors for the Democratic nomination had been in Congress since Ronald Reagan’s first term.
Paul, Rubio, and Cruz will make the same case if any of them decides to run, but campaigning against the institution you belong to can be tricky, and it’s a handicap others won’t have.