Will Sen. Bunning (R-KY) Retire? 'Roll Call' Reports A Hint : It's All Politics Will Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) retire? There are signs that he may do so.
NPR logo Will Sen. Bunning (R-KY) Retire? 'Roll Call' Reports A Hint

Will Sen. Bunning (R-KY) Retire? 'Roll Call' Reports A Hint

We've long been reporting the precarious political position Sen. Jim Bunning is in as the Kentucky Republican ponders a third term next year.

Bunning has been feuding with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and others in his party. His fundraising has been weak. He has been snapping at reporters and party officials, more than usual.

With those factors in mind, the name of Secretary of State Trey Grayson as a possible candidate has long been bandied about. Grayson has said, however, that he would run only if Bunning did not.

Well, Roll Call's John McArdle, under the header "Bunning Set to Retire," has this story this afternoon:

In a move that signals a retirement announcement from Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) is imminent, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R) has formed an exploratory committee to run for Senate.

In making the announcement, Grayson reiterated that he has "no plans to run against Senator Bunning" -- and one Republican political strategist confirmed Thursday that Bunning did in fact give Grayson the green light to open up an exploratory committee, a clear signal that he does not plan to seek another term in 2010. A second GOP source said Grayson was likely to run now, even if Bunning decides not to retire after all.

Kentucky Republicans are speculating that Bunning will make his retirement announcement May 9 at the state's Lincoln Day Dinner.

Grayson met with Bunning and other Members of the the Kentucky delegation this week before forming his exploratory committee. One of those meetings was with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has been a political mentor to Grayson.

In their meeting McConnell "wished [Grayson] luck," said McConnell's chief of staff, Billy Piper.

Grayson has hired McConnell's pollster, Jan van Lohuizen.

As he continued to insist he was running for re-election, Bunning has lashed out at McConnell and other Republican leaders in recent months for what he believed to be their lack of support for his campaign. Another target of Bunning's wrath has been National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas).

NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said Cornyn would support Bunning "in whatever he decides to do."

Bunning spokesman Mike Reynard declined to comment on Grayson's candidacy.

"I have formed an exploratory committee to allow me to formally raise and spend funds as I seek support for a bid for U.S. Senate," Grayson said in a statement Thursday. "This exploratory committee will allow me to travel the Commonwealth, meet with potential supporters and lay the foundation for a campaign."

Among the Democrats planning to run for the seat are state Attorney General Jack Conway and Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, who narrowly lost to Bunning in 2004.