Senate Republicans facing retirement issues


When it comes to the federal legislature, winning and incumbency tend to go hand in hand. That is why Senate Republicans are concerned about retirements, both announced and potential, going into the 2010 mid-terms. But in one case, they’d actually welcome a retirement.

That’s in Kentucky, where Jim Bunning (R-KY) is looking extremely vulnerable and is thus far low on campaign cash. The party has been trying to coax him out of the Senate, opening the door for a younger and stronger candidate, but to date he has rejected all such requests.

Tom Coburn (R-OK) is considering retirement, and is expected to make an announcement before analog TV goes away. Oklahoma has been a reliably Republican state, but there are strong Democratic candidates there who may be able to score an upset in a battle for an open seat.

There is also the possibility of an early exit by Kaye Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) to run for governor. Although her term ends in 2012, her early exit would open her seat to a run-off. Texas also seems reliably Republican in recent years, but her colleague and Republican campaign coordinator John Cornyn (R-TX) seems to think the Democrats just might pull off an upset in a special election with very low voter turn-out.

Mel Martinez (R-FL), Judd Gregg (R-NH), George Voinovich (R-OH) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) have announced their intention to retire. No Democrats have done so.

RBR/TVBR observation: Retirements mean open seats, and open seats mean battlegrounds and the possibility of a hefty influx of advertising cash from national organizations. That’s because they often offer an opportunity for the opposition party to make off with the seat, especially if the state is a traditional battleground to begin with.

Ironically, big time presidential battleground Florida, which is losing Mel Martinez (R-FL) to retirement, looks like a safe bet for retention, since Gov. Charlie Crist has made his intentions to run for the Senate known. But even with that development, things could change quickly, and Democrats will likely make a strong play for the seat.