Updated: 1:15 p.m.
Despite some head-scratching over news that he encouraged Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R) to form a Senate exploratory committee, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) insisted Tuesday morning that he still plans to run for re-election in 2010.
Bunning told Kentucky reporters on his weekly conference call that the only way he would abandon his re-election effort would be if he did not meet his fundraising goals later this year.
Meanwhile, Bunning continued his verbal assault on Republican Senate leadership — specifically Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), whom he accused of being selfish.
McConnell, among others, has sent clear signals that he would prefer that Bunning step aside so that the party could nominate someone who they perceive to be a stronger general election candidate.
“Do you realize that under the dynamic leadership of our leader, we have gone from 55 … to 40 [Senate seats] in two election cycles, and if the tea leaves that I read are correct, we will wind up with about 36 after this election cycle,— Bunning said on the conference call, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. “So if leadership means anything, it means you don’t lose … approximately 19 seats in three election cycles with good leadership.—
Bunning’s anemic early fundraising has been a major reason why some party officials have hoped he would opt for retirement and give someone else the opportunity to try to hold the Senate seat next year. Some senior GOP officials on Capitol Hill have even described the irascible 77-year-old Senator as a political dead man walking.
“Do you know Arlen Specter will be 80, has had four bouts with cancer and he still wants to run for the U.S. Senate?— Bunning said on the conference call. “And I’m being criticized at 77 and healthy for wanting to run for the U.S. Senate by certain leadership people in my party. Give me a break.—
When asked if he was referring to McConnell, Bunning said, “Obviously. Do you want me to spell it out for you?—
As for Grayson’s exploratory committee, Bunning said he recommended it so Grayson could raise money for a future political race.
“He’s a dear friend, and I thought this would be a way for him not to have to travel around the state and still gather up some money for any federal office he chooses to run for,— Bunning said on the call, according to WFPL news radio.