Who Runs for Senate if Voinovich Retires?

By Chris Cillizza
Sunday, January 11, 2009; 11:20 PM

Is Sen. George Voinovich planning to retire?

Rumors that the second-term Republican from Ohio would step aside ran rampant over the weekend, and GOP operatives acknowledged privately that they expected Voinovich to leave the Senate in 2010, although they cautioned that it is not a done deal.

"There will be an announcement Monday," said Voinovich spokesman Chris Paulitz.

Voinovich would be the fourth Republican senator to step aside in this election cycle, joining Sam Brownback (Kan.), Mel Martinez (Fla.) and Christopher S. Bond (Mo.) on the sidelines. The Republicans must defend 20 Senate seats in 2010, compared with 17 for the Democrats.

The chatter about an open seat in Ohio forced Republican and Democratic strategists to begin putting their candidate wish lists together quickly.

The most likely Republican candidate is former representative Rob Portman, who left Congress in early 2005 to become the U.S. trade representative for President Bush; Portman went on to serve as the head of the Office of Management and Budget. Portman has made no secret of his interest in running for statewide office and would be likely to enjoy considerable support from the party establishment in Washington, where he is regarded as a rising star.

Others mentioned on the GOP side include former congressman John Kasich and former senator Mike DeWine.

The Democratic field is far less defined, with possible candidates including Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, and Reps. Zack Space and Tim Ryan. Democratic strategists think a contentious primary can be avoided, but it remains to be seen whether ambitious pols will heed the wishes of the party in Washington.

Democrats have made significant strides in the Buckeye State over the past few elections -- winning the governorship in a romp in 2006 and carrying the state by four points for Barack Obama in November's presidential election.

Specter's Potential Challengers

Now that "Hardball" host Chris Matthews isn't running for the Senate from Pennsylvania in 2010, some casual observers are likely to lose interest in the race. They shouldn't. GOP Sen. Arlen Specter's reelection bid is almost certain to be one of the most expensive, high-profile contests in the country.

Specter has shown an amazing electoral resilience over a career that has spanned three decades; he has repeatedly beaten back serious primary and general-election foes -- a tenacity that even Democrats have to admire.

There are two critical factors in calculating whether Specter can pull off a win in 2010: Pat Toomey and the Democratic field.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company