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Monday, July 2, 2007

GOP Senate Retirement Watch - the Immigration Vote

Political observers are reading the tea leaves to determine which GOP Senators are contemplating retirement. In addition to Colorado Sen Allard, as many as seven more (nearly a third of the 22 seats they are defending in 2008) are rumored to be considering leaving Congress. They are: Cochran (MS), Craig (ID), Domenici (NM), Hagel (NE), Inhofe (OK), Stevens (AK) and Warner (VA)

Last week's immigration vote may have provided some clue as to who is calling it quits and who is gearing up for a campaign.

Of course, many of us will be watching the Q2 fundraising numbers as they become available in the coming weeks (the Senate still files paper reports, so they won't be immediately available as with House and Presidential amounts). If John Warner hasn't revved up the fundraising efforts over Q1 (when he deposited a grand total of $500), a retirement will be viewed as a near-certainty.

A look at how these Senators voted on immigration reform reveals two are likely to relinquish their seats, two others are gearing up for another run, while the plans of the remaining three remain too difficult to determine.

Leaving the Senate? Of the seven, only two (Hagel and Craig) voted for cloture. Both have already attracted primary challengers from the rightwing and this "YES" vote only serves to weaken them within the GOP base. I'd say this indicates both Senators are not planning reelection campaigns.

Stubborn Old Men: Domenici and Stevens, each tainted by scandal and ongoing investigations, voted against cloture. These votes represent a switch from their "YES" votes on the previous cloture motion. A reversal indicates they are being responsive to the demands of the conservative activists who are critical to their re-election efforts. Voting for cloture would have further weakened them back home, where both have watched their standing with the voters plummet in recent months.

Show Me the Money: Virginia's Warner is the third GOP Senator who switched his vote. Until we see his Q2 fundraising numbers, I'd hold off on making any prediction as to his 2008 plans.

The immigration votes don't provide insight into the plans of the remaining two, as both Inhofe and Cochran voted with the majority of GOP senators each time.

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