August 31st, 2007
04:13 PM ET
15 years ago

Warner's departure puts GOP in bigger bind

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.”

Related: Warner to retire from Senate

–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser

Filed under: Senate
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Claude, Mesa AZ

    Good. This will create an opportunity for someone else. There are several other elderly senators that should seriously consider retiring.

    August 31, 2007 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  2. Bob, Pacific Grove, Ca

    I guess there won't be any "safe" seats for the GOP in '08.....You can thank none other than George W Bush for their demise. Senator Warner is obviously sick of politics in DC especially when it comes to Bush's Iraq debacle...

    August 31, 2007 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  3. Sally, Prescott, AZ

    I guarantee Tom Davis will run, and win.

    August 31, 2007 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  4. Sam H, Bedford Texas

    I am very excited that he is retiring because it will give the Democrats much more seats to conquer in the Senate in 09.

    August 31, 2007 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  5. Steven, Kunkletown PA

    While I actually liked John Warner, but it was wise for him to retire now. The man's in his eighties now and I'm sure he'd like to retire after six terms. Not to mention, injection of new blood into the Senate can only help it at this point.

    August 31, 2007 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    It's time for another Northern Virginian to step up. Soon or later, NoVa will make Virginia blue. Mark Warner for US Senate!

    August 31, 2007 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  7. Christian, Tampa FL

    John Warner was one of the few Senate Republicans that I consistently liked. He'll be missed, but I do think that five terms is plenty.

    August 31, 2007 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  8. David, Salinas, CA

    This is going to be one of the most exciting races in the country given how closely Virginia is split between red and blue factions. If Republican George Allen hadn’t said the word “Macaca” he’d probably be a Virginia Senator running for President today.

    A word on Tom Davis, the likely Republican nominee for this seat:

    Davis accepted major campaign donations from IAP, the private contractor responsible for the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Davis knew about the problems for three years before the story broke, but he never scheduled a hearing or said anything to embarrass his contributor. He has also worked tirelessly to make it easier for the government to award no-bid contracts. He has various close ties to the Abramoff, RNCC and K Street scandals. Davis is also the congressman who signed the subpoena ordering Terri Schiavo, her husband, and her doctors to appear in court along with, “all medical and other equipment that provides nutrition and its current and continuing state of operations."

    The Democratic nominee will probably be former Governor Mark Warner, a popular moderate with (as near as I can tell) a clean record.

    September 1, 2007 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |