Topeka — Even if he does not run for the White House in three years, Sen. Sam Brownback said he's sticking to his two-term pledge in the Senate.
"That's what I said when I first ran, and I intend to stick to that," Brownback, whose second term expires in 2010, told The Topeka Capital-Journal on Monday.
The Kansas Republican was first elected in 1996 to fill out the unexpired term of former Sen. Bob Dole when Dole resigned to concentrate on his run for president. Brownback was elected to his first full term in 1998 and re-elected last year, winning handily each time in his overwhelmingly Republican home state.
Brownback said he doesn't mention his two-term pledge often, because he doesn't want to be considered a lame duck.
Possible successors are well aware of it, though - even on the Democratic side, which hasn't won a Senate race in Kansas in more than 70 years. The party could have a strong candidate in Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, although she has not publicly expressed interest in running in 2010 for the seat now held by Brownback. If she runs for re-election as governor next year and wins, her second term would run through 2010.
"Obviously, there will be people who would be positioning themselves for that," said Ken Ciboski, a political science professor at Wichita State University. "That would put Kathleen Sebelius right on the dot four years from now."
Brownback, meanwhile, acknowledges he will need to boost his name recognition to have a chance at the GOP presidential nomination in 2008.
He has visited key primary states, such as Iowa and New Hampshire, but has not set a timetable for deciding whether to pursue the nomination.
"It's such a long race that you've kind of got to line up way early, particularly if you haven't been out in that field before," he said.
Brownback's job will be even tougher if Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani get into the race.
"Some people have natural factors that are lined up that they can make a decision and they don't have to do the spade work because they've already done it," Brownback said. "So this is one of those things where I have to have a longer lead time and do more tilling of the field than several other candidates would have to do."