Pegged to the start of the NCAA basketball tournament, the NBC Political Unit has launched “Senate Madness” – our online contest pitting history’s most consequential U.S. senators against one another. To assemble our list of 64-plus senators, we reached out to historians, as well as fellow political observers and analysts.
The exercise isn’t based on popularity; rather, it’s based on consequence. These are the senators who shaped U.S. history, whose names are affixed to important legislation and Senate buildings, and whose influence and legacy lives on. Some of these names were on the wrong side of history on major issues facing the country. After all, just as American history is complicated, so too is the history of the U.S. Senate. Note: Current senators aren’t eligible to make our list.
The interactive contest works just like an NCAA tournament bracket. Over the next few weeks, you get to vote on each match up between individual senators, and the winners advance. Our brackets are divided into different eras: 19th Century, 20th Century, Modern Day (relatively), and All of the Above (a grab-bag from different eras).
Tuesday’s voting has ended and today, we feature our third-round -- and thus Sweet 16 -- contests: In the 20th Century, it’s #1 seed LBJ vs.#12 Richard Russell (“The Master of the Senate” vs. The Southern Lion) and #2 Everett Dirksen vs. #11 Mike Mansfield… In the Modern Era, it’s #1 Ted Kennedy vs. #5 Hubert Humphrey and #2 Daniel Patrick Moynihan vs. #11 Joe Biden…. In the 19th Century, it’s #1 Daniel Webster vs. #5 Sam Houston, and #2 John C. Calhoun vs. #3 Charles Sumner… And in the Mixed Era, it’s #1 Henry Clay vs. #4 Robert La Follette and #2 Henry Cabot Lodge vs. #14 Scoop Jackson.
So cast your pick for the most influential senator, voting remains open for 24 hours.