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Kentucky's GOP Sen. Jim Bunning officially ends 2010 reelection bid

Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky, the most vulnerable GOP senator up for re-election in 2010

It used to be that the favored public reason for giving up something was the fervent and newly discovered desire by the departee for more quality time with the family.

There was a whiff of that in Sarah Palin's recent retirement rhetoric, though no one expects her to hole up by the big picture window in her lakeside Wasilla pad and watch the ice come in this fall.

The newest reason is money. Illinois' demonized Democrat interim Sen. Roland Burris used it recently to explain his new-found desire to retire next year and not seek a formal election to Barack Obama's old seat as the Senate's sole black.

Now, today comes Republican incumbent Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky.

Jim Bunning

The strange thing is, unlike the old "family time" line, in both senators' cases the publicly stated reason is most probably true.

Also, they would have lost in the end anyway. So why go out in flames when they can go home in faux dignity and peacefully eat Shredded Wheat at the kitchen table?

In a bitter surrender letter today, Bunning made it official that he would not seek reelection, suggesting that some collegial undercutting was responsible for his inability to raise sufficient funds. Double-dealing? In U.S. politics?

Those muffled cheers you may hear come from the GOP Senate caucus, which promised last winter not to fund a primary challenger to Bunning but, as The Ticket reported in February, worked quietly to ensure today's decision.

In recent years, the 77-year-old second-term Republican has at times taken to speaking in tongues in public, alluding to "strangers among us" to explain upping his security detail and tossing off a prediction that a cancer-stricken Supreme Court justice would be dead in a few months.

With fellow Kentuckian and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's close call in his reelection last fall, Bunning's Bluegrass seat looked like a loss next year to pad the Democratic majority if the incumbent tried to hold it. Now, the way is cleared for young blood, most likely Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson.

In recent years Bunning has seemed like a Hall of Fame pitcher who keeps showing up for spring training well past his prime. Oh, wait. That is Bunning, who became only the second pitcher ever to earn 100 wins and 1,000 strikeouts in both the American and the other league that hasn't won an All-Star Game this century (Cy Young was first).

Bunning officially ended his baseball career in 1971 with 2,855 strikeouts, 224 wins and 184 losses.

Exactly 40 years later he'll officially end his Senate career 2-0.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Getty Images

 
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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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