The announcement that Harry Reid will be retiring from the Senate in 2016, and likely succeeded by Chuck Schumer of New York as Democratic leader, would break a long streak in which floor leaders of the Senate — both majority and minority leaders — have predominantly hailed from smaller states. It’s a little-recognized pattern that for several decades has expanded the influence of small states that are already greatly overrepresented in the Senate by virtue of the equal-representation principle that allocates two senators to each state.
he pattern is undeniable: No Senate floor leader since Republican Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania left the minority leadership in 1977 has been from one of the nine largest states, which cumulatively make up more than half of the U.S. population. Indeed, nearly all Senate leaders have been from the bottom half of the states when ranked by population, including some of the very smallest in the Union.
To wit: Over the past three decades, the Republican leaders in the Senate have been Howard Baker of Tennessee (17th-largest state today), Bob Dole of Kansas (34th), Trent Lott of Mississippi (31st), Bill Frist of Tennessee (17th) and currently Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (26th).
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