Update 3 8:45 a.m. – Sean O’Donnell of the Baltimore Examiner cites Cillizza and two other sources to quash the rumor – for now. Certainly this is a case study on the power of the internet – now the question becomes who the original source was.
It’s also worthy of noting that The Vail Spot, which had just over 200 readers in the previous week, has had over 20,000 readers since 2 p.m. yesterday when the rumor was picked up. (He has an open Site Meter – for now.)
Update 2 7:30 p.m. – Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post tweeted earlier this afternoon: “Rumors that Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) is retiring are NOT TRUE, according to informed D source.”
We’ll see. This means it’s the word of an “impeccable” source vs. an “informed” source. More below.
Update 1 5:45 p.m. – I spoke briefly via phone with fellow candidate Dr. Eric Wargotz who agreed with me – he’ll believe it when he sees it too.
Senate candidate Daniel McAndrew notes that this rumor isn’t really new, but “if true, then the next question will be who, in the Democrat party, will have the better chance trying to keep the seat from flipping. This is likely to be very interesting given the rash of others retiring.”
Another source who preferred to be unnamed cautioned me that Mikulski looked healthy and was getting around fine at the recent MACO conference, so the foot injury has apparently healed.
I’ve also been told that there’s a high possibility Rep. Chris Van Hollen may jump in if Mikulski quits – he’s been “gearing up” for a Senate run. Obviously if the Democrats lose dozens of seats in the House Van Hollen could be a fall guy as DCCC head.
A blogger heretofore unknown to me by the name of Rich Vail may have dropped a bombshell on Maryland politics and created a gamechanger movement by citing an “impeccable source” who says Senator Mikulski will not seek another term.
His post on The Vail Spot, if true, sets a lot of machinery into motion.
Obviously having another open Senate seat (a second in four years) could convince a number of prominent Maryland Democrats to leave the safety of their offices for a run – one name mentioned in the comments was Attorney General Doug Gansler, with another being Governor O’Malley. This could also convince any of Maryland’s seven Congressional Democrats to move up as well.
If you go back and look at the 2006 race for the seat eventually won by Ben Cardin (to replace the retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes), Cardin’s main competition came from onetime NAACP head Kweisi Mfume – no other Democrat secured double-digit support. But Mfume has laid low politically since his 2006 defeat, making it questionable whether he would try again.
Most of the Democrats’ Senate seat bench, then, comes from the ranks of already-elected Congressman and state officials, with only Gansler, O’Malley, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, and Comptroller Peter Franchot haviing run statewide. Of that group, Brown might be most likely to make an attempt, perhaps couching it as a bid to place a black person back into the ranks of the Senate (Roland Burris of Illinois, who was appointed to succeed President Obama, did not stand for election this year.)
While the Democrats’ bench isn’t the largest one around, the side with an even more shallow bench is the GOP. Their group of elected officials who have run statewide is exceedingly small: former Governor Bob Ehrlich and the man who ran against Mikulski last time, State Senator E.J. Pipkin. Pipkin could well decide to go again if Mikulski retires and not worry about the First Congressional District race which he’s been rumored to consider entering.
The more intriguing possibility is Ehrlich, who’s not officially entered the GOP race for governor but has had the field essentially cleared for him by the withdrawal of three people previously interested, most recently onetime Congressional candidate Larry Hogan. Since the latest polls have Ehrlich trailing a governor in Martin O’Malley who’s only marginally popular statewide and Ehrlich doesn’t want to be placed in a position where he’s likely to lose, the open Senate seat could pique his interest.
Obviously that prospect would dim the hopes of the five people who have already entered the Senate race and would get a boost from not having to run against an entrenched incumbent. I’m going to ask them for comment and update the post if I get any.
However, before we get too far along and despite the fact Vail has laid out a good case for Mikulski’s retirement, it remains to be seen whether this is rumor or scoop. Yet given the other political news of Senate retirements (with the most recent shoe to drop being Mikulski’s fellow Democrat Evan Bayh of Indiana) it’s not out of the question that Mikulski may feel it’s her time to go. On the other hand, though, Bayh faced a much tougher potential re-election fight than conventional wisdom pegged for Mikulski – so the health issues she’s faced lately may indeed be taking their toll.
Obviously this is a developing story I’ll stay on top of.