Sen. Warner recently suggested that President Bush have some troops home from Iraq by Christmas
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Senator John Warner announced Friday that he will retire after his current term expires and will not run for re-election in 2008. The five term senior senator from Virginia was first elected to his seat in 1978.
The announcement of the 80-year-old Warner’s retirement puts Senate Republicans in a bigger bind as they try to recapture the chamber from the Democrats in next year’s election. Virginia was once a solid red state, but Democrats have won most of the major state wide elections in recent years.
Warner’s seat will definitely be in play next year. Rep. Tom Davis could run for Warner’s seat. The moderate Republican from northern Virginia has long eyed succeeding Warner. But Davis is a moderate Republican and would most likely face serious competition from a conservative candidate. One possibility is former Governor Jim Gilmore, who gave up his bid for the White House last month.
On the Democratic side, party leaders are hoping former Governor Mark Warner (no relation) will run. Warner left office after 2005 with very high favorable ratings. He also considered running for president but never officially jumped into the race. Warner would be considered a very strong candidate and could have a good chance at taking the seat away from the Republicans.
And that most likely has the GOP quite concerned. The Democrats took back control of the Senate from the Republicans in last year’s midterm election, but they hold a bare majority. Right now the Democrats control 51 of the Senate’s 100 seats, and only 49 of those Senators are actually Democrats. Senator Joe Lieberman, a former Democrat from Connecticut who won re-election last year as an independent, and Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, both caucus with the Democrats, giving the party its slight majority over the chamber’s 49 Republican senators.
The problem for the GOP is that they will be defending 22 of the 34 seats up for grabs in next year’s election. And Republicans could have trouble holding on to a number of seats. Besides Warner, Senator Wayne Allard of Colorado is also not running for re-election in 2008. Democrats made major gains in Colorado in last year’s election and are eyeing Allard’s seat. And it doesn’t help the Republicans that the Democratic National Convention will be held in Denver next August.
A number of Republican senators running for re-election will most likely face tough battles. Among them are John Sununu of New Hampshire, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Susan Collins of Maine, and Gordon Smith of Oregon.
At this early date only one Democrat up for re-election next year, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, appears to have a tough fight ahead.
Independent political analyst Stuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report, says “this looks to be another tough cycle for the GOP, maybe as bad or worse than 2006. It’s not just the nation mood but the senate seats that are up and the number of difficult contests the Republicans face.”
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser