More Retirements?

The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that George Voinovich may be considering retiring at the end of his current term in 2010.

Although Ohio GOP Chairman Robert T. Bennett insisted tonight that Voinovich would run for another term, one senior GOP official said Voinovich has told his staff, “I’m running, but I might not run.”

Another Republican source, who spoke only on the condition he not be identified, said Voinovich has shuffled his fundraising team. The source said the 72-year-old senator appears to be sending signals that he might not run for a third term.

But Bennett, whose term as party chairman ends next week, said he had lunch in Cleveland with Voinovich Dec.23 and “the whole discussion was about him running in 2010 and how much money he had raised this year.”

“There wasn’t any indication from George Voinovich that he wasn’t a candidate in 2010. None. He’s running. I cannot imagine a scenario that he wouldn’t run.”

Obviously Bennett wants to put a good spin on this, but the question of whether or not Voinovich will run for another term has been a hot topic since the aftermath of the 2006 elections. I’ve heard some variation of the “he’s running, but might not run line” from at least 3 members of Voinovich’s staff, and one person who worked on his 2004 campaign. And it kind of makes sense, Voinovich isn’t getting any younger, and there’s not a lot to be done from the position of a 41 seat minority in the Senate. Still, he’s not that old in Senate terms, and he remains fairly popular in Ohio, to the point that he could probably win re-election somewhat easily, and may not even face much of a credible challenge from state Democrats.

So my guess is that Voinovich’s decision will come down to how boxed in a potential primary run makes him feel. If he feels like he’s either unlikely to face much of a challenge, or that he can withstand one rather easily, he may become a key swing vote in the Senate; being willing to support measures like universal healthcare and EFCA that won’t hurt him in a general election, and wringing some favor from Democrats (to say nothing of a few goodies for Ohio along the way), then I imagine he’ll give it a go. But if he feels like the only way to secure a primary victory is to engage in unwavering filibusters of everything that comes up this Congress, odds may be better than 50-50 that he declines to run again.