KY-Sen: Bunning Showing Signs Of Retiring?

If true, this blows:

Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning, the most endangered Republican up re-election in 2010, appears headed for retirement after giving his leading GOP rival the blessing to prepare to run for his seat next year.

Bunning's retirement would be a huge victory for national Republicans who have grown increasingly nervous that the 77-year-old two-term senator would lose a critical race as the party tries to cling to its diminished minority in the Senate.

On Thursday afternoon, Kentucky GOP Secretary of State Trey Grayson announced that he would form an exploratory committee to run for Bunning's seat - a move that Kentucky GOP operatives say is a precursor to Bunning's retirement. Grayson's entry will come as a relief to Kentucky Republicans and Senate GOP leaders, who may now have reason to believe their party could hold on to this seat.

A recent PPP poll showed Bunning tanking below 40% in head-to-head match-ups against 4 different Democrats. Bunning dropping out was always the only way the GOP was going to keep this seat and the fact that Bunning is likely to step aside for Trey Grayson to run is even better news for Big John Cornyn. Grayson polled the best against those same Democrats, even defeating two of them. The Democrat that fares best against Grayson and indeed against all potential comers: Rep. Ben Chandler who beats Grayson 40-34.

Update [2009-4-30 17:26:59 by Todd Beeton]:Mark Nicklaus says beware of this story:

Until Bunning confirms this story, I would view it with a great deal of skepticism as this smells like another weak Politico hit piece with nothing in it but "GOP operatives" who are trying to bring down Bunning. This is part of the coup, not a plan that Bunning is part of.

It may very well work and Bunning may realize his days are numbered and he needs to retire, but don't be surprised if later today he flips out and says the story is BS.

After all, this is a Politico story. View with skepticism.

After all, Bunning did just say yesterday that he didn't expect to face any primary opponent, signaling his full intention to run for re-election (Grayson for the record has said he will not primary Bunning.)

There's more...

KY-Sen: Ben Chandler Now in the Mix for Dems

More bad news for Jim "I Really Am a Senator" Bunning. The two-term Republican is already facing a challenge from Democratic Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, whom he only narrowly defeated in 2004. Now it looks like Congressman Ben Chandler, perhaps the top potential recruit for Democrats in the state, may get in this thing as well.

U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler says he's considering a run for the U.S. Senate.

Chandler says he's being encouraged by supporters and he's been approached by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee about a possible run next year.

[...]

Chandler is the grandson of Kentucky political icon and Major League Baseball commissioner Happy Chandler. He is a former Kentucky attorney general and was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2003.

After the Democrats struggled last year to find a nominee to challenge the state's senior Republican Senator, Mitch McConnell, it's notable that the party now has such an apparent wealth of strong potential challengers for Bunning. With not only Mongiardo and Chandler, but also Attorney General Jack Conway and state Auditor Crit Luallen, potentially looking at the race, this may yet be one of the Democrats' best pick up opportunities for 2010.

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KY-Sen: Bunning Gearing Up for Reelection

Back in 2004, a banner year for Senate Republicans, then-freshman incumbent GOP Senator Jim Bunning managed to score just a 50.66 percent to 49.34 percent victory over the largely unknown and greatly outspent Dan Mongiardo, despite the fact that George W. Bush carried the state by 20 points. Bunning's approval numbers aren't great, and others in the upper chamber of Congress have trouble believing Bunning is actually a Senator, but that apparently isn't enough to stop Bunning from moving towards a reelection bid.

U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning reiterated yesterday that he plans to run for re-election in 2010 and said he has formed a steering committee to raise money for his campaign.

Bunning, R-Ky., made his comments in a conference call with reporters.

He has said repeatedly that he plans to seek another term, but his failure to raise much money so far has prompted speculation that he might ultimately decide not to make the race. Bunning's third-quarter campaign finance report showed him with $175,000 on hand.

If Bunning does in fact go forward with a reelection bid, he is going to need a whole lot more than a few hundred thousand dollars. The Democrats have a very credible candidate to challenge Bunning in Ben Chandler -- if he wants it. Chandler has managed to win reelection by close to a 2-to-1 margin in a district with a Cook PVI of R+7, indicating that he has the ability to pull in support from not only the Democratic base but also Republicans, Independents and the significant chunk of Kentuckians who are still registered as Democrats but nevertheless vote Republican on a consistent basis. He also had more than $1.1 million in the bank as of the middle of October, a strong base upon which to launch a Senate bid.

I wouldn't say that this race would lean Democratic if Bunning stayed in and Chandler jumped in -- but it certainly would be tossup.

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