Many, many readers are excited about the rumor, eminating from The Vail Spot blog, that Sen. Barbara Mikulski will retire.
A note: Mikulski is 73 years old. She has been in the House or Senate since 1977. Usually when a member serves into their 70s, it is a sign they plan to serve until they die or their health no longer permits it. (The account in the Vail Spot mentions a slow recovery from an ankle fracture.) But it’s entirely conceivable that Mikulski might want to do something else with her life after 33 years in Congress.
I would also note that for a liberal Democrat, this cycle is as good as it will get, with 59-60 seats in the Senate, 257 or so seats in the House, and an initially-popular Democratic president who was elected on a platform of change. Republicans will probably gain seats this year; if liberal legislation isn’t passed by the end of this year, it’s probably not getting passed for a generation. For an old liberal legislator like Mikulski, this might seem like a nice time to ride off into the sunset. Having said that, she’s been talking about running again consistently.
Having said all that, the least she’s ever gotten in a Senate race is 60 percent. Evan Bayh faced a tough reelection bid, but Mikulski’s biggest-name opponent so far, is Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Eric Wargot. She’s raised $3 million, he’s raised $176,526. Even in a terrible year for Democrats, she should be safe.
If Mikulski is contemplating retirement, it’s not because she fears she’ll lose in 2010.
UPDATE: Richard Vail writes in, “I never said that Ms. Mikulski was worried about her chances for reelection. I merely stated that her recovery was taking far, far longer than anticipated and that she was tired.” The headline wasn’t aimed at Vail; I was aiming to dissuade some overexcited readers who interpreted the rumor as a sign that even Mikulski was running scared.