By Chris Cillizza
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) will not seek a third term in the Senate, a decision that creates a ripe pickup opportunity for Democrats in the 2008 election.
Allard has served in the Senate since 1996. He said at a news conference yesterday in Denver that his pledge to serve just two terms was the overriding factor in his decision.
"In an age when promises are cast away as quickly as yesterday's newspaper, I believe a promise made should be a promise kept," he said.
Allard is the first senator to announce he will not seek reelection next year, when Republicans must defend 21 seats and Democrats only 12.
Other Republicans mentioned as possible retirees in 2008 include Thad Cochran (Miss.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.), Pete V. Domenici (N.M.) and John W. Warner (Va.). Tim Johnson (S.D.) and John F. Kerry (Mass.) are considered the most likely Democrats to retire.
Even before his announcement, Allard was regarded as one of the most vulnerable senators next year, in equal parts because of his low-key demeanor and because of Colorado's shifting political landscape.
In the past two elections, Democrats have taken over the governor's mansion, a Senate seat and two House seats. In part to highlight their success in Colorado and the Mountain West, the Democratic National Committee picked Denver last week as host of its 2008 nominating convention.
Allard's retirement "improves the Democrats' chances significantly because the eventual Republican nominee will not be able to marshal as much resources or local goodwill as an incumbent senator" would, said Colorado-based pollster Paul Harstad, whose firm is handling the survey research for Rep. Mark Udall, the likely Democratic nominee.
Udall is not likely to face a serious challenge in the primary, according to several informed Democrats. The son of the late former congressman Morris Udall (D-Ariz.) has held a Boulder-area congressional seat since 1998, and he has made little secret of his desire to serve statewide.
In 2004, he announced for the seat of retiring Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R), only to step aside for state Attorney General Ken Salazar (D) less than 24 hours later. At that time, Udall announced he would run for the Senate in 2008, and he has been at it ever since. As of Dec. 31, he had $1.3 million in his House campaign account.
For Republicans, the picture is far less clear. Bill Owens, who left office last week after eight years as governor, is the first choice of many, but he seems disinclined to make the race. Former congressman Scott McInnis has repeatedly expressed interest in a Senate race but has said he would take a pass if Owens decided to run. Former congressman Bob Schaffer ran for the Senate in 2004, losing in the primary to beer baron Pete Coors.
Schaffer said he is interested in the race but is in "no hurry" to make up his mind. "I ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, and so it isn't any secret that I want to be in the Senate," he added. McInnis did not return a call seeking comment.
Sen. John Ensign (Nev.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, called holding Allard's seat a "top priority."