|Outlets in Kentucky and in Washington D.C. are reporting that Republican Senator Jim Bunning has announced that he will retire at the end of this term. This is a rare occasion where the non-incumbent Party probably would have preferred to face the incumbent, given Bunning’s weak fundraising, mediocre polling, and irascible temperament.In the wake of Bunning’s exit, the most frequently discussed Republican candidates will be: Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who the GOP establishment will likely coalesce behind and who actually doubled Bunning’s Q2 fundraising take; Rand Paul, son of Texas Congressman and Libertarian icon Ron Paul who already has about $100,000 in his exploratory committee as of the end of June and who can tap his father’s extensive national fundraising base; and, Cathy Bailey, a former U.S. Ambassador to Latvia in the Bush 43 administration and renowned Republican fundraiser.The Democratic primary largely remains a two-person race between Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, who has the backing of Gov. Steve Beshear, and state Attorney General Jack Conway, who has the backing of just about every other major Democratic official in the state.
No doubt new polling will be done soon. However, the last poll that I’m aware of, an April poll by Public Policy Polling (in PDF), showed Conway leading Grayson 37-33 and Mongiardo trailing Grayson 36-40.
The big winners in Bunning’s retirement are: the national Republican Party, who won’t have to worry about Bunning’s antics anymore; Grayson, who moves into frontrunner status for the Republican nomination; and Conway, who can point to his polling strength over Grayson relative to Mongiardo (in addition to Conway’s much stronger fundraising than Mongiardo and seemingly broader support) as reason for him being the Democratic nominee.
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