If the long-running rumors are, at last, true, Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) may be on her way out. This is according to a deeply unflattering report from Politico -- which, we must note, is similar to a less-deeply-unflattering report Politico published in 2012. But there are a variety of reasons to think that this time it's more likely.
For example: Wasserman Schultz has now served for just over the average tenure of all Democratic National Committee chairs. Since the first chair, Benjamin Hallett back in 1848, the head of the party committee has served, on average, three-and-a-third years. As of the fourth of September, that's exactly how long Wasserman Schultz has served. That average is bolstered somewhat by a few long terms back in the 1800s, by the way; since 1970, there have been 18 party chairs (excluding honorary chairs). They've served, on average, 2.4 years.
Over that time period, the Republican National Committee has seen about the same number of chairpersons, 19, who, naturally, have served for slightly shorter average tenures. But over the history of the party (which isn't quite as lengthy) the average tenure is only 2.5 years. Meaning that current chairman Reince Priebus, who's been in his position a few months longer than Wasserman Schultz, is beating the historic average.
The good news for Wasserman Schultz (and Priebus in the longer term) is that party chairpersons have a long history of going on to better things. If you were curious why we dated the recent era of party chairpeople back to the early 1970s, it's so that we could tell you about the glory days of RNC chairs. In 1971, a guy named Bob Dole assumed the position, just two years after he became a senator from Kansas. He went on to become the most powerful Republican in the Senate and the party's 1996 presidential nominee. When Dole left the position, he was replaced by a gentleman named George H. W. Bush, who became president. Two RNC chairpeople later, Bill Brock, a future senator from Tennessee and Secretary of Labor. Oh, and the guy before Dole? Future Secretary of Commerce Rogers Morton.
The Democrats' recent successes are similar: several senators (including sitting Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia), a few ambassadors, a couple of governors (including Terry McAuliffe of, once again, Virginia). Two former chairpersons ran for office this year. Steve Grossman, who led the DNC in the 1990s, ran for governor of Massachusetts, losing to Martha Coakley. Ed Gillespie, head of the RNC during the second Bush administration, is running for Senate (in Virginia, naturally). He trails incumbent Sen. Mark Warner (D). (By far the best post-chair job was that of Lawrence O'Brien, who went on to be NBA commissioner, a position of much-more-appealing influence and power.)
The soft landing of party chairs isn't surprising. The entire point of being elected chairperson of a party is that you are good at politics and respected by your political peers. That's an actual requirement for the job. Which is why the Politico report about Wasserman Schultz is at once both surprising and ephemeral. If Wasserman Schultz loses (or "resigns") her position at the DNC, she's still a member of Congress. Consider: Part of the complaint lodged against her is that she's used the position to bolster her political career. She'll be a senator from Virginia in no time.