WASHINGTON — Senator John Kennedy shuffles alone through the Capitol basement, reveling in his bag of walnuts, unrecognized and unbothered as reporters chase his colleagues for comments on the daily swirl. He has mostly shunned the Beltway social circuit favored by his peers, splitting his leisure hours between the Senate gym’s elliptical machine and an apartment stash of Sam’s Club hamburgers, imported from his Louisiana home in a Walmart freezer pack.
There is a saying here about the upper chamber, especially in modern Senate classes overstuffed with ambition and self-regard: Every senator looks in the mirror and sees a president. Mr. Kennedy looks in an aide’s iPhone on selfie mode before television interviews and sees … good enough.
“I’m ready,” he said, shrugging a little, before one such appearance on the Fox Business Network recently. He handed back the phone with his hair still askew.
John Neely Kennedy, a 65-year-old Republican freshman on this baffling campus, is almost certainly not going to be president of the United States. He is, in fact, the only senator for whom a simple Google search is a humbling exercise, thanks to that nettlesome John Fitzgerald Kennedy.Yet in an era of self-promotion, self-importance and transparent bids for national prominence among even the greenest of lawmakers, Mr. Kennedy has negotiated his first months on the job as something of a throwback in Washington’s crackling tumult — a Southern-fried Waldo for the Trump age, drifting through the volatility in plain sight, if only anyone were looking.