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Updated: MSNBC host Chris Matthews is not running for Senate

January 7, 2009 |  4:45 pm

MSNBC host Chris Matthews today put an end to the speculation that he was considering a bid for U.S. Senate, telling his producers in a meeting that he had decided not to jump into the 2010 race in his home state of Pennsylvania.

In a routine production meeting before his daily show, “Hardball,” Matthews informed the staff that he was not going to pursue the seat, said network spokesman Jeremy Gaines. The cable host, who is negotiating a new contract at MSNBC, declined to comment.

For the last several months, Matthews toyed with the notion of taking on Republican Sen. Arlen Specter. He even went so far as to talk to state Democratic power brokers about what it would take to challenge Specter, a five-term senator.

Matthews’ interest in the seat put MSNBC in an uncomfortable position as reports mounted that he might run. In recent weeks, executives told him that he needed to make up his mind quickly and let them know of his plans.

Matthews got his start in politics, working as a speechwriter for President Carter and as a top aide to House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O’Neill. But it’s unclear how the voluble cable host, who has often stirred controversy with his off-the-cuff political commentary, would have fared as a Senate candidate. During last year’s presidential primaries, he was forced to apologize for suggesting that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s political success stemmed from sympathy she garnered after her husband “messed around” with a White House intern.

Throughout the campaign, Matthews and “Countdown” host Keith Olbermann were the targets of ire from Republicans who complained that they were cheerleaders for Sen. Barack Obama’s Democratic presidential campaign. But the criticism did not dampen viewership. MSNBC scored its highest prime-time ratings ever in 2008.

— Matea Gold

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