For GOP senate prospects in 2010, it only gets worse

From bad to worse in the senate:

A spate of retirement announcements by Senate Republicans this year have further complicated attempts by GOP strategists to begin rebuilding a party devastated by across-the-board losses in recent elections.

The latest departure news came yesterday, when Sen. George V. Voinovich of Ohio said he has decided not to seek a third term in 2010, citing a desire to "step back and spend the rest of our time with our children and grandchildren." Voinovich joins Republican Sens. Sam Brownback (Kan.), Christopher S. Bond (Mo.) and Mel Martinez (Fla.) on the sidelines heading into the 2010 election. So far this year, no Democrats have announced plans to retire after the current Senate term.

The rapid pace of Republican retirement announcements has dispirited many in the party who thought the 2008 election, in which the party lost seven or eight seats (depending on the outcome of the Minnesota contest), marked the GOP's nadir.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), the No. 3 Republican leader, said the decisions by Voinovich, Martinez and Bond hurt the party both politically and legislatively. "We're losing three of our best players," said Alexander, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

The GOP is defending 20 seats in 2010 compared to the Democrats 17. That alone spells bad news. And if the economy has improved at all, Democrats are likely to get credit for it and make it that much tougher for Republicans.

Still, the GOP has some strong candidates running in Ohio and Florida - states narrowly won by Obama. Also, Missouri and Kansas are fairly red so the GOP might hang on there as well (Kansas might be a big problem if Democratic governor Sebelius makes a run).

Two years is an eternity in politics and much can happen to sour the public toward the Democrats between now and then. But looking at the situation right now, it appears to be an uphill climb for the GOP to make much headway in the senate.

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