Archive for the ‘2010 Elections’ Category

Jim Bunning’s relationship with Senate Republicans and Kentucky GOP political operatives continues to deteriorate.

Republicans have a new strategy for dealing with the wildly unpredictable Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.): keep their distance and hope he implodes.

That means little fundraising help from top Republicans in Washington, little to no engagement with the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a cold shoulder from Kentucky political strategists. And if you’re Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the NRSC chairman, no cross words about Bunning.

“The easiest way to get rid of him is not give him any money,” said one Washington-based Republican fundraiser.

Cutting off Bunning from the big money — while ignoring his outbursts on the campaign trail — may be the only hope for Republicans whose behind-the-scenes effort to force Bunning to retire have backfired. Calls for him to retire, and any recruitment of a primary challenger, will only embolden Bunning, Republicans say.

Cornyn, for his part, is treading very carefully after Bunning publicly called him a liar and threatened to sue the NRSC if he didn’t get its support. Cornyn says that all GOP Senate candidates are in a “self-help” phase at this point in the 2010 election cycle and that the NRSC is backing Bunning.

“I think it was just a product of misunderstanding,” Cornyn said. “I think the assumption was what we were doing was we were not supporting [him]. Now he understands the NRSC is supporting our incumbents, including him.”

But Bunning’s recent threat to resign if Republicans didn’t help him with his reelection bid didn’t help his cause. Republicans in Washington and Kentucky are less eager than ever to help his run for a third term in 2010, saying they hope his campaign dies naturally from lack of money.

“This will not help with fundraising,” said one Kentucky GOP operative, who, like others interviewed for this story, requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue candidly. “It will just confirm what most people already believe: This guy has basically lost it and is irrationally lashing out at those who should be his allies.”

Kentucky and national Republicans are more or less openly trying to toss Bunning over the side. His threat to resign from the Senate and potentially hand over his seat to a Democrat and give Harry Reid a filibuster-proof supermajority may well have been the last straw. The strategy here is correct — Bunning has to make the decision to quit by himself, it can’t be imposed on him. But it forces Republicans to keep quiet and spend little or no time raising money or scouting for a replacement candidate.

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If Roland Burris thinks he has a political future beyond 2010, he is as clueless as the man who appointed him.

Update: Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush invokes Chappaquidick and Larry Craig’s bathroom arrest as reasons why Roland Burris should not resign from the Senate.

Perhaps the worst kept secret in Republican Senate politics is that they are silently and not so subtly urging Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky to retire, or encourage a primary challenger. Now it looks like Bunning and his friend and fellow Kentuckian in the Senate Mitch McConnell have had a falling out.

Sen. Jim Bunning’s (R-Ky.) political career began to deteriorate this week after he apologized for making insensitive remarks about a sitting Supreme Court justice and then threatened to sue his own party if it forced him to retire.

While his public missteps may have damaged his reelection chances for the moment, perhaps more troubling is the distance that appears to be developing between Bunning and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Once considered best friends in the chamber, their relationship has soured as many harbor the belief that Bunning is not the best candidate to keep the seat in GOP hands, according to Senate sources.

A spokesman for McConnell said the Republican leader “considers Sen. Bunning a close friend and a respected member of his caucus, and they continue to work closely on issues of great importance to their constituents.”

Bunning declined to comment for this article.

Democrats have targeted Bunning, an irascible member of the chamber and former Hall of Fame pitcher, in the next cycle. New GOP polling shows him down in a hypothetical match-up against a Democratic challenger, according to a GOP source.

Republican strategists are desperate to avoid a reprise of the 2007 gubernatorial race, in which an unpopular GOP incumbent — Ernie Fletcher, who became ensnared in scandal — refused to step down and lost the governor’s mansion to Democrats.

Bunning is planning a vigorous defense of his seat. He is in the midst of hiring campaign staff and scheduling fundraisers and plans to raise $10 million for his reelection.

Campaign records show that his campaign has only $150,000 and that he raised a mere $27,000 in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Bunning has implied that he held back on fundraising to give McConnell, who faced a difficult reelection himself last year, uncontested access to GOP donors in Kentucky. This has made McConnell’s fading support all the more painful, said one Senate lawmaker.

Bunning dodged a bullet in 2004, in a red state like Kentucky during a much friendlier political environment for the GOP. At this point, any pragmatist, especially one who has had a career as long as Bunning, would probably take one for the team and step aside to help his party retain the seat. But if Bunning is as stubborn about this as the article says and he stays in the race, it will make for a nasty spat inside Kentucky and national GOP circles, and mean one more potential seat the Republicans will have to spend time and money defending to hold off a 60-seat Democratic supermajority in the Senate for the last two years of Barack Obama’s first term.

Every once in a while, a politician says something so inappropriate, it shocks even me.

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), already in political trouble for 2010, didn’t help matters any over the weekend.

At a Lincoln Day Dinner speech over the weekend, Bunning predicted that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would likely be dead from pancreatic cancer in nine months, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The paper reports that Bunning reiterated his support of conservative judges, saying “that’s going to be in place very shortly because Ruth Bader Ginsburg…has cancer.”

“Bad cancer. The kind you don’t get better from,” Bunning went on. “Even though she was operated on, usually nine months is the longest that anybody would live after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.”

While Senator Bunning didn’t explicitly say it, he comes across like he’s looking forward for Justice Ginsburg to die. He just handed his opponents for 2010 – in a potential GOP primary or the general election – a whole case of ammunition to use against him.