Steve Chapman

But the Constitution says to opportunistic interlopers: Y'all come! It requires only that a senator be an "inhabitant" of the relevant state by Election Day, which effectively means anyone can run anywhere. The framers chose not to impose a long-term residency requirement.

They were similarly laissez-faire about higher offices. The president and vice president must come from different states, according to the Constitution. But that didn't keep George W. Bush of Austin from picking Dick Cheney of Dallas as his 2000 running mate. Cheney changed his voting registration back to his native Wyoming, and the courts said that was good enough.

Stiff residency rules might have made sense in the 18th century, when travel was excruciatingly slow, communications were primitive and extensive first-hand knowledge of other places was hard to come by. But today, it's hard to argue that someone from Indiana couldn't understand the needs of Illinois well enough to hold office on this side of the Wabash River.

Come to think of it, some Illinoisans may be writing in Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels for governor this year. Locals might think the Prairie State could only benefit from seeking out leaders who keep a wary distance from our bogs of corruption. Likewise, we'd be happy to export many homegrown pols.

As a rule, Americans pay no attention to where a candidate lays his head as long as he approximates what they want as a leader. When a transplanted Yankee ran for president in 1992, Texas Gov. Ann Richards, a Democrat, jeered, "George Bush claims to be from Texas. But someone who lives in Maine and stays in a Houston hotel room is called a tourist in Texas, not a Texan."

Texans got a good laugh out of that one. And Bush got their 32 electoral votes.

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Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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