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Bunning Bowing Out

Politico is reporting that Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky will not seek a third term next year.

Bunning, one of that small but growing club of politicians to transition from earlier careers in sports or entertainment, was first elected in 1998 to Kentucky’s Class 3 seat occupied previously by, among others, the legendary Henry Clay, 1860 presidential candidate John C. Breckinridge (briefly), and Vice President Alben Barkley.

Bunning’s health and lucidity was first called into question more than five years ago after he apparently relied on a teleprompter during a debate in his 2004 re-election campaign, and a few months ago he used rather aggressive language in criticizing the leadership record of his fellow Republican senator from Kentucky, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Whatever the reasons, the Politico’s Manu Raju and Josh Kraushaar say pressure was growing from within his party caucus to retire.

“Bunning has been under enormous pressure to step aside from senior Republicans in Washington, including from … McConnell, who worried that the 77-year-old senator’s poor fundraising and rock-bottom poll numbers will ensure he loses reelection in 2010,” they report. “But the senator had for months resisted overtures and became increasingly confrontational with McConnell, who learned about the news just moments before his announcement.”

Not sure if this news will compel Nate to bump KY from second to first in his Senate race rankings, but we’ll have to leave that to him to clarify.