Senator John Warner announced today that he will not be seeking re-election. Warner “chose the north steps of the Rotunda on the University of Virginia campus, where he was a law student a half-century ago, to reveal his widely-anticipated decision that he would not seek a sixth term in 2008.”
“I will conclude my service to Virginia as a senator when I complete this, my fifth term, on January 6, 2009,” Warner said. The former Navy Secretary and past chairman of the Armed Services Committee said he wrestled with the decision, which he came to “in the last day or two.”
In the end, he said, it was the rigors of Senate service as he enters his 80s and the importance of letting the next generation of Senate leaders step up that drove his choice.
“I’m going to quietly step aside,” he said.
Warner has been “one of the Republican Party’s most influential figures on military issues and an increasingly critical voice on the course of the war in Iraq.”
The N.Y. Times reports, “Warner’s retirement creates a major new vulnerability for his party in the struggle for control of the Senate, leaving an open seat in a conservative state that has increasingly trended Democratic the last few years.”
Democrats are already favored to hold, if not enlarge, their slender majority in the Senate, if only because of the large number of Republican seats that are up in 2008: 22, compared with just 12 for the Democrats.
There’s speculation that “some of the state’s biggest political names,” will vie for the seat, including Mark Warner on the Democratic said of the aisle, and Republican “Tom Davis, a longtime congressman from Northern Virginia, and the conservative former governor Jim Gilmore.”
Democratic Majority Leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, issued a statement of tribute to Mr. Warner:
“He has been a true gentleman and has served the people of Virginia and our nation with distinction and honor throughout his nearly three decades of service,” Mr. Reid said. “While this is a sad day for the Senate, Senator Warner’s indelible impact on this institution will not be forgotten.”
The GOP is veritably screwed in the upcoming election now that they are left in the position having to defend at least “22 of the 34 seats up for grabs in next year’s election.”
Republicans could have trouble holding on to a number of seats. Besides Warner, Senator Wayne Allard of Colorado is also not running for re-election in 2008. Democrats made major gains in Colorado in last year’s election and are eyeing Allard’s seat. And it doesn’t help the Republicans that the Democratic National Convention will be held in Denver next August.
A number of Republican senators running for re-election will most likely face tough battles. Among them are John Sununu of New Hampshire, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Susan Collins of Maine, and Gordon Smith of Oregon.