Normally, the Republican leadership would be upset to hear that an incumbent senator from their party has decided to retire. That’s not the case with Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., who announced Monday afternoon that he will not run for re-election in 2010.
Senate Republicans, including Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who heads the party’s Senate campaign committee, have been actively looking for someone else to run in Bunning’s place for some time now. At one point, when the candidate recruiting became public, Bunning even threatened to sue the National Republican Senatorial Committee if they supported a primary challenger. But at the time, Cornyn said he’d support Bunning if he ran.
That’s not the way the veteran Kentucky senator sees it. In a statement, he put his decision not to run again squarely on the shoulder of his party’s leaders, saying:
Unfortunately, running for office is not just about the issues. To win a general election, a candidate has to be able to raise millions of dollars to get the message out to voters. Over the past year, some of the leaders of the Republican Party in the Senate have done everything in their power to dry up my fundraising. The simple fact is that I have not raised the funds necessary to run an effective campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Actually, if either party’s disappointed about this announcement, it’s the Democrats — they had a good chance of knocking off Bunning and taking his seat, or at least forcing the GOP to play defense, and that seems much less likely now.