KY-SEN: Mongiardo In

Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Dan Mongiardo will seek a rematch against Senator Jim Bunning in 2010:

Mongiardo, who lost to Sen. Jim Bunning by 1.4 percent in 2004, announced Monday morning in a news release his intention to file candidacy papers later this week to run in 2010.

Mongiardo was a two-term state senator when he first challenged Bunning in 2004.

Bunning has repeatedly said he will run for another term, but speculation continues that he may back out. Bunning is expected to speak more about his future on Tuesday.

Consider a few things: in 2004, Bunning was an incumbent; it was a bad year for Democrats; Kentucky is a strongly red state; and Mongiardo was far less well-known.  Yet, Bunning won by only 1.4%, which bodes extremely well for Mongiardo this time around.

Of course, that would change if the GOP succeeded in their drive to force Bunning into retirement:

Some Republicans are privately urging Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) to step down at the end of his term amid growing concerns that he can’t win reelection in 2010.

According to two GOP sources, leading Republican fundraisers in Kentucky are hesitant to raise money for Bunning and have told him he should not seek a third term.

“They want him to realize he’s had a good run but that it’s time to move on. These people want to win, and they realize he could easily lose this seat,” said one leading Kentucky Republican operative who requested anonymity to speak candidly.

While national campaign officials usually urge their incumbents to remain in office — recognizing it’s tougher to defend an open seat — even leading Republicans seem unconvinced Bunning can win reelection.

[…]

While Bunning has shown no sign that he’s ready to retire, there’s little evidence he’s prepared for the tough, expensive campaign that looms ahead.
Bunning will need to raise millions to mount a serious defense of his seat, but he is already well behind pace with only $175,000 in his campaign account through September, the latest a report was available. Worse, he isn’t expected to hold his first fundraiser until April.

There’s always a chance that Bunning could lose a primary contest to someone like Secretary of State Trey Grayson. But there’s also a chance Bunning could emerge from such a bloody primary battle with even less support and money than if the GOP lined up behind his bid early on.

Whether or not this seat is winnable for the Democrat may just depend on whether or not Bunning is the Republican candidate, though Mongiardo is a top-tier recruit regardless of who he ends up running against.

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