The late Sen. Robert Byrd was among a group of highly effective Democratic Senate leaders who shared the trait of representing small-population states, says Vanderbilt political scientist Bruce Oppenheimer, who has researched this phenomenon. “Others who come to mind are Mike Mansfield, George Mitchell, and more recently, Tom Daschle and Harry Reid. The lawmakers from those states with fewer constituents are the ones who have time to manage the workload of leading the Senate.”
Oppenheimer said that Byrd’s legacy was not only his durability but also his role as the protector of the congressional prerogative. Also, in later years Byrd more broadly represented the lower socio-economic groups that make up a significant portion of his state.
Oppenheimer is the author of Sizing Up the Senate: The Unequal Consequences of Equal Representation and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.