From The News & Observer:
WASHINGTON — Republican insiders are hedging their bets on the fate of Sen. Jim Bunning’s 2010 re-election bid as the rift between Kentucky’s junior senator and GOP leaders widens.
For the better part of a month, Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher, has thrown Republican leaders curveballs by feuding with his fellow Kentuckian, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s chairman, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, over support for his re-election efforts.
Bunning also made a headline-grabbing blunder by predicting that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would be dead by year’s end.
Bunning apologized Monday for the Ginsburg statement. However, some Republican analysts want Bunning benched.
On Tuesday, Bunning threatened to sue the National Republican Senatorial Committee if it tries to recruit a GOP candidate to challenge him. He then went on to accuse state Senate President David Williams of owing him $30,000 and questioned Cornyn’s honesty.
On Friday, Williams met with NRSC officials in Washington about a possible run for the U.S. Senate, a move that infuriated Bunning.
This isn’t Bunning’s first brush with verbal faux pas.
During the 2004 campaign, Bunning said Democratic challenger Daniel Mongiardo, then a state senator from Eastern Kentucky and now the state’s lieutenant governor, looked “like one of Saddam Hussein’s sons.” Mongiardo is an Italian-American.
Bunning later apologized for the statement, and the two may face off again in 2010.
Mongiardo issued a statement Wednesday calling on Bunning to withdraw from the Senate contest because Bunning is an “embarrassment to Kentuckians.”
In the 2004 election cycle, Mongiardo lost to Bunning by a 1.4 percentage point margin.
Other Democrats considering the race include state Attorney General Jack Conway and state Auditor Crit Luallen. U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, has not ruled out a run.
In the meantime, the state’s Republicans are hoping to avoid a replay of the 2007 Kentucky governor’s race, when GOP Gov. Ernie Fletcher refused to step aside and lost in a landslide to Democrat and current Gov. Steve Beshear.
Ultimately, the true test of Bunning’s ability to mount a viable bid for a third term will depend on whether he is able to raise funds and fortify support, said Jennifer Duffy, a senior analyst with the Cook Political Report.
“It’s up to him. He promised to raise $2 million and they’ll hold him to it,” Duffy said.
So far, Bunning has banked only $150,000 in what could be a race that demands $10 million or more per candidate.
In a telephone press conference with reporters on Tuesday, Bunning had just four words for naysayers:
“I’m going to run.”
Oh goody! You have to run, Senator Bunning! Think of the children!