Christmas is coming a little late for DSCC Chairman Robert Menendez:

Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio will not seek re-election in 2010.

Voinovich said in a statement Monday that the challenges facing the state and country will require him to devote all of his energy to serving out his current term and that campaigning and fundraising would take time away from his work as a senator.

Voinovich, 72, also said he wants to spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren.

Voinovich is the fourth Republican Senator to officially announce retirement this cycle, joining Senators Sam Brownback of Kansas, Christopher "Kit" Bond of Missouri, and Mel Martinez of Florida.

A fifth Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, is also expected to resign from the Senate prior to 2010, with an eye on her state's Governorship.

The deluge of Republican retirements may not yet be over; such announcements may yet come from Sens. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Jim Bunning of Kentucky.

With potentially competitive races in Louisiana and North Carolina as well, the map is looking exceptionally good for Democrats, who need only one seat (pending the seating of Senator-elect Al Franken of Minnesota) to gain a filibuster-proof majority of 60 seats. The oldest Democratic Senator up for reelection in 2010, Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, has announced his intention to run for reelection, leaving only Barbara Mikulski of Maryland as a serious retirement possibility.

Between the raft of retirements so far, the number of potentially vulnerable Republican incumbents, and the limited number of vulnerable Democratic seats, NRSC chairman John Cornyn has an extremely difficult road ahead of him, even accounting for a potentially favorable political climate in 2010.

As far as the Ohio seat goes, most of the speculation within the state has revolved around Representative Tim Ryan (who was heavily recruited for a Senate run in 2006), Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman (who also considered such a run), Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher, Representative Zack Space (who has won two elections in a solidly Republican district), and Representative Betty Sutton (a Cleveland-area liberal who would be the state's first female Senator).

The two biggest Republican names in the batch are former Representative, OMB Director, and US Trade Representative Rob Portman, and former Representative (and 2000 Presidential candidate) John Kasich. It's rumored Kasich is considering a run for Governor rather than the Senate, against incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland.
Roll Call also mentions former Senator Mike DeWine, who lost quite badly to Sherrod Brown in 2006, 56-44. If Republicans really want to rebrand the party and stamp a new face on today's GOP, running an old Gingrich/DeLay era retread wouldn't seem to be the best choice.

Democrats have an exceptionally strong field of political talent in Ohio, and it's only gotten stronger of late (with the recent election of Reps. Steve Driehaus, Mary Jo Kilroy and John Boccieri). The Senate race looks like a tossup at the moment, and Ohio Democrats should be awfully optimistic about a Senate pickup in the Buckeye State.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 08:45 AM PST.

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