CQ Politics, 12/18/7

Senators on both sides of the aisle praised Trent Lott on Tuesday morning, anticipating his resignation within days. Now, the political spotlight in Mississippi is aimed squarely at Republican Reps. Charles W. “Chip” Pickering Jr. and Republican Rep. Roger Wicker as possible replacements for his Senate seat.

Republican insiders in Mississippi and Washington say Pickering of the 3rd District is first in line for the appointment, but some doubt whether Pickering is jumping at the chance. Pickering announced earlier this year plans to retire from the House in January 2009 to focus on his family and work in the private sector.

“I don’t want to put words in his mouth if he’s changed his mind,” Marty Wiseman, Director of Mississippi State University’s John C. Stennis Institute of Government said of Pickering this week. “But from talking to people who know him, and know him well, he hadn’t backed off of his expression of a need to get out of Washington for a while.”