Sen. Kyl reportedly won't seek re-election

Sen. John Kyle (R-AZ) is planning to announce his retirement today, according to Chris Cilliza of the Washington Post:

Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl (R) plans to announce his retirement at a press conference later today, according to a high level source familiar with his thinking.

Kyl will be the fifth Senator to announce he is leaving the chamber in 2012. He joins Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D),Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) on the sidelines.

Kyl is the Senate Majority Whip, the second ranking position in Republican leadership.

Kyl was term-limited out of that job in December 2013 and would have been forced into either challenging Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for leader or leaving leadership all together.

Kyl's retirement make this race much more competitive, but the GOP would still be favored.  The GOP had a good year in Arizona in 2010,  picking up two House seats, and almost winning two more, and winning statewide races for Senator and Governor. Home state Senator John McCain won in Arizona by 8% over Barack Obama, while Obama picked up three other Southwestern states with growing Hispanic voting percentages: Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico.

The GOP's success in Arizona in 2010 contrasted with mixed results in the other three states.   The strongest potential Democratic candidate for an open seat Senate race in Arizona might have been Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, had the Tucson horror not occurred.   Giffords continues to have a strong recovery from her gunshot wound, but speculation over here political future seems very premature.