Suddenly, Bob Graham isn’t running for anything:
Sen. Bob Graham, who dropped his bid for the Democratic nomination for president last month, has decided not to seek re-election to a fourth Senate term in 2004, a source close to Graham said Monday.
Graham, a former Florida governor, said there were other things he wanted to do, the source said. The source said Graham had pledged to help the Democratic Party keep the seat in Democratic hands.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Graham was expected to make the announcement later Monday.
Graham’s decision further complicates hopes by the Democrats to regain control of the Senate, where Republicans hold a 51-48 majority, with one Democratic-leaning independent.
He is the fourth southern Democrat to announce he will not run again, joining Georgia’s Zell Miller, South Carolina’s Fritz Hollings, and North Carolina’s John Edwards.
Losing an incumbent always makes it tougher for the minority party to gain traction in the Senate, but how might an open seat play out in Florida? Let’s peer into Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball:
Should Graham opt out of the Senate contest, a massive free-for-all would commence. An early edge would go to the GOP—how long can highly competitive but GOP-leaning Florida have two Democratic U.S. senators? But that assumes Republicans choose wisely in their primary, and don’t split asunder.
Credible GOP candidates for the Senate seat include five-term Congressman Mark Foley, though the recent revelations suggesting that he is gay won’t exactly help him in a Republican primary dominated by conservatives, many of them Christian activists. (Foley himself took the long-time rumor public on May 22, after its publication in a South Florida alternative newspaper, and before its possible publication in mainstream papers; in his press conference, Foley pointedly did not deny that he is gay.) Former Congressman Bill McCollum, the losing GOP nominee for Senate in 2000, wants another shot, too, though with its embarrassment of riches, the Florida GOP might think twice about re-nominating someone who forfeited one of its top offices in a clumsy campaign against now-Senator Bill Nelson (D). (To be fair, the CB notes that former Senator Connie Mack has endorsed McCollum, as he did in 2000. Were Mack running, the race for an open seat would be over. But McCollum is no Mack.) Many Republicans, including the White House political mavens, are not satisfied with either Foley or McCollum. They tried to convince Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez to run for the Senate, but Martinez has his eye on the post-Jeb Bush governorship in 2006 and he said no to the Senate contest. Instead, Congressman Dave Weldon may enter the primary, and state House Speaker Johnnie Byrd and state Senator Daniel Webster already have. There are now three solid conservatives (McCollum, Byrd, and Webster) in the GOP primary, and there may be a fourth (Weldon). If Moderate Mark Foley stops pretending to be hard-right conservative, which he is not, he might be able to slip between the conservatives and capture the nomination.
Wow. “Free-for-all” is right. But read the whole thing to see what the Democrats have in store.