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Kentucky: Derby Absence Fuels Talk of Bunning Exit

In deciding to skip Saturday’s Kentucky Derby to stay in Washington, D.C., Sen. Jim Bunning (R) didn’t do anything to quell speculation that he is looking to retire rather than seek re-election next year.

Along with its significance to the horse-racing community, the derby is also one of the state’s premier political events and Bunning’s decision to skip it was seen by some Kentucky insiders as yet another sign that the irascible Senator has no interest in what will certainly be a tough campaign in 2010.

Among those in attendance at the derby on Saturday was Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R), who announced last week that he had formed an exploratory committee for the Senate race.

Grayson told the Lexington Herald-Leader last week that Bunning had proposed the idea of forming an exploratory committee and that when he met with the Senator last Wednesday, Bunning still supported the idea. In announcing the committee, Grayson reiterated that he has no plans to run against Bunning.

Yet Bunning spokesman Mike Reynard continued to insist Monday that his boss has “every intention of running— for re-election in 2010.

The mixed messages should make for another interesting conference call with Kentucky reporters this morning. Bunning hosts a Q&A with Bluegrass press most Tuesdays when Congress is in session.

Kentucky Republicans have speculated that Bunning might make his retirement announcement at the state’s Lincoln Day Dinner on May 9, but after his absence from the Kentucky Derby it will be interesting to see if Bunning even shows up to the event this weekend.

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