Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races

Keeping a close eye on developments in the 2008 U.S. Senate races

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Retirement Watch

We know that the numbers favor Senate Democrats in 2008. 21 GOP vs. 12 Democratic Senators up for re-election gives the GOP a great deal more territory to have to protect. And, as hard as it can be to hold incumbent seats, it's even harder to retain open seats. This again favors the Democrats, as there are many more Republican Senators on "Retirement Watch."

DSCC Chair Chuck Schumer has said that he has gotten assurances from every Democratic Senator that they are all running for re-election, except for Iowa's Tom Harkin, who has since demonstrated public steps toward a re-election bid.

Aside from Harkin, I'm not sold that New Jersey's Frank Lautenberg is definitely going to run for re-election, which might not be a bad thing given Lautenberg's low approval ratings and NJ's wealth of Democratic Congresspeople waiting for a promotion, not to mention that Lautenberg is the Democrats' oldest 2008 incumbent by just over a decade.

Also, Delaware's Joe Biden is looking at the White House, but is hardly a favorite to win the nomination in 2008, meaning that he will likely opt for Senate re-election and have plenty of time to do so.

This leaves only the recovering Tim Johnson of South Dakota as a significant question mark, and even his camp is showing signs, from staffing to fundraising, that a re-election bid could still be on the horizon, health-permitting.

Meanwhile, more than half of the GOP's 21 incumbents are on the retirement watch spectrum. After spending much of the last decade-plus in the majority party, many of these Senators will find that spending 2007 in the minority will make for a less pleasant work environment. And with many states, like Colorado and Virginia, on a blue-trend, some Republican Senators may opt for retirement rather than risking ending their career on a loss. Beyond that, many Republican Senators are just really old.

1) Colorado's Wayne Allard: Definitely retiring

2) Maine's Susan Collins: Is under a self-imposed term-limit-pledge, but is planning a re-election bid. However, if Tom Allen gets in the race and Collins' broken promise becomes a major issue, with polling going strongly Allen's way, it's not inconceivable that Collins would step aside

3) Virginia's John Warner: Publicly leans one way, then publicly leans the other - definitely considering retirement

4) Alaska's Ted Stevens: Is 200 years old and threatens to retire every time he doesn't get his way on a vote - claims to be preparing for a re-election bid, but we'll see

5) Mississippi's Thad Cochran: Publicly undecided on a re-election bid and says he may not make up his mind until November

6) Nebraska's Chuck Hagel: Considering a White House bid, with rumors afoot that he may retire from the Senate regardless of a Presidential bid

7) Tennessee's Lamar Alexander: Was considering retiring until he received choice committee assignments - still not publicly confirmed for re-election, though - if he dislikes serving in the minority enough, he may just hang it up

8) New Mexico's Pete Domenici: not publicly committed to a re-election bid, as rumors of retirement thoughts persist, as well as rumors of a questionable mental state, including wandering the halls of Congress in his pajamas

9) North Carolina's Elizabeth Dole: her staff has claimed that she's planning on re-election, but she has not made any definitive comments; meanwhile, many factors, including her age, her horrible job as NRSC Chair, and her recent hip replacement, suggest that retirement may be a strong possibility - also, polling has the reluctant Mike Easley ahead of Dole; if he got in, maybe she'd prefer to avoid a tough re-election campaign

10) Texas' John Cornyn: While he is very clearing planning a re-election bid, he is also one of Bush's top choices (if not Bush's first choice) for a Supreme Court opening should there be one more before the end of Bush's term - granted, I'd rather have Cornyn in the Senate running for re-election than enjoying a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court

11) Oklahoma's Jim Inhofe: Rumors exist that he is considering retirement, though this is a rare situation (perhaps akin to NJ's Lautenberg) where the non-incumbent party might have an easier time beating the incumbent than a replacement (say former Governor Frank Keating)

12) Idaho's Larry Craig: Another situation of more rumors circulating while Craig waits on a formal public announcement one way or the other

Running (or most likely running) for re-election: Saxby Chambliss (GA), Norm Coleman (MN), Mike Enzi (WY), Lindsey Graham (SC), Mitch McConnell (KY), Pat Roberts (KS), Pete Sessions (AL), Gordon Smith (OR), John Sununu (NH)

Though only one retirement is announced, if the stars aligned well enough, the GOP could face a meltdown with more than a half-dozen retirements. While we can't hang our hats on that many open seats, we can probably expect a couple more to follow Wayne Allard. Keep reading here for news and updates!


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