NRSC will back Sen. Bunning for reelection after all

Republicans had wanted the Kentucky senator to retire instead of risking defeat, but one key group is now promising him its support.

Published February 24, 2009 7:00PM (EST)

Republicans haven't exactly been running to support Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning lately. Sure, he's one of their own, but they're worried that if he runs for releection in 2010, he'll lose, and in the current political climate that's a defeat the GOP can't afford. So some Republicans have been encouraging him to retire, and have been looking for primary challengers who could keep the seat red.

On Monday, though, the same day Bunning got in trouble for saying he expects Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- who has cancer -- to die within the year, he also scored the support of a key colleague. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told the Washington Post that the NRSC will back Bunning, even in a contested primary, as it does all Republican senators. "My position is that this is Sen. Bunning's decision to make, and as long as he says he is running I will be supportive of him," Cornyn said. His comments were especially interesting given that they'd come just days after a potential challenger had gone to the NRSC to discuss the possibility of his mounting a primary campaign against Bunning.

Bunning, meanwhile, is doing his best to ensure that Cornyn keeps his word, though he's probably not making any friends in the process. On Tuesday, he told reporters that he believes he'd have grounds for a lawsuit against the NRSC if the organization supported a challenger over him. "In their bylaws, support of the incumbents is the only reason they exist," Bunning said.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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