At this time of year, rumors tend to swirl about members of Congress pining for higher offices in 2016. But a quick look at the last few years of history makes clear that a fair amount of that buzz never turns into anything more.
Whether they are ambitious, attention-seeking, or just indecisive, a number of members of Congress have regularly expressed interest in Senate races, gubernatorial campaigns, or even presidential efforts in recent years—before eventually stepping back and staying in place.
Here are nine of the most recent offenders—including some who have left Congress altogether—who have long eyed political promotions but have a history of holding back.
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio
Ryan may challenge Sen. Rob Portman in 2016—but if his past form means anything, he might just be staying put. In 2005, Ryan considered running against then-Sen. Mike DeWine before declining to seek the Democratic nod. Four years later, Ryan also explored running for the seat held by retiring GOP Sen. George Voinovich. In 2013, he thought about a gubernatorial bid against Republican incumbent John Kasich but ended up taking a pass.
Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif.
Sanchez's name has been in statewide campaign rumors for at least a decade, and she explored a 2010 gubernatorial run before deciding not to go ahead with it. Later that year, the House member filed paperwork to start raising money for a gubernatorial campaign in 2014, but Jerry Brown's return closed off that avenue. The Garden Grove Democrat is now "seriously considering" a run for the Senate seat held by retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.
After showing interest in a 2012 presidential run, Thune decided not to seek the GOP nomination. Two years later, he sparked the possibility of taking a shot at national office the next time around. However, Thune has now ended speculation about the 2016 presidential race, saying the "window ... might have closed in 2012."
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio
In 2012, Portman was considered a top contender to round out Mitt Romney's presidential ticket. He stayed in the Senate, and in 2014 rumors were rampant that he was getting ready to explore a 2016 presidential campaign. Instead, Portman announced in December he will seek a second Senate term, taking himself out of the running for a presidential bid.
Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis.
In 2013, Kind considered challenging Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. One week later, he decided to opt out of the race. Now, Kind is reportedly mulling a 2016 Senate run against Sen. Ron Johnson. Former Sen. Russ Feingold, who lost to Johnson in 2010, may also make a play for that seat. With Democrats' bench as short as it is in the state, Kind's name might keep coming up until he either retires or eventually jumps at a chance for higher office.
Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash.
For months, Reichert pondered a 2012 Senate run against Sen. Maria Cantwell. Instead, he sought reelection in the 8th Congressional District as Cantwell swept to victory in a good Democratic year. Now, Reichert says he's weighing a gubernatorial run against Gov. Jay Inslee or potentially a campaign for Sen. Patty Murray's seat. Murray has already indicated she is seeking a fifth term in 2016.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa
Weeks after Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin announced his retirement in 2013, King said the likelihood of his running for Harkin's seat was "50/50". He ultimately ruled out a campaign. Months later, the conservative lawmaker was rumored to be considering a 2016 presidential run after visiting South Carolina, an early-primary state. But that, too, seems unlikely—King may be able to exert more influence on the presidential race from his current perch in the first caucus state.
Former Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich.
For months, Rogers mulled a run for Michigan's 2014 open Senate race. In 2013, he said he would remain in the House. Then in 2014, Rogers announced he would not seek reelection in his congressional district. Now, as a radio host, Rogers isn't closing the door on a 2016 presidential run.
Former Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa.
Gerlach, who served six terms in Congress, ran for governor in 2010 before dropping out of the GOP primary. The move came as Gerlach trailed the Republican front-runner, Tom Corbett, in polls and lagged in fundraising. He chose to seek reelection to his House seat before retiring in 2014.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kimberly Railey is an editorial fellow for National Journal Hotline. Prior to joining National Journal, she covered Congress at the Washington bureau of The Dallas Morning News. She has also written for The Boston Globe, USA TODAY, and The Christian Science Monitor. Originally from South Florida, she graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, where she served as managing editor of The Daily Northwestern.