The Campaign Spot

Let’s Get Real: Barbara Mikulski Does Not Fear a Loss This Year.

Many, many readers are excited about the rumor, eminating from The Vail Spot blog, that Sen. Barbara Mikulski will retire.

Mike Memoli of RealClearPolitics and Chris Cillizza of the Post are both reporting from unnamed sources that the rumor is not true.

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.

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