Sen. Jeff Bingaman Retires

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 18 2011 12:52 PM

Sen. Jeff Bingaman Retires

The five-term senator is leaving at the end of this term; the National Republican Senatorial Committee is out of the gate calling it a "strong pickup opportunity" like North Dakota and Virginia, more homes to retiring Democrats.

I'm not as sure. It's harder for Democrats to hold than it was yesterday; Bingaman was popular and uncontroversial , and no one had come close to beating him since the Republican wave of 1994, when he won 54 percent of the vote. But New Mexico is a quirky, Democratic-leaning state, where Barack Obama remains more popular than he is in the rest of the country; this has a lot to do with New Mexico being the only state where Hispanics outnumber whites. Republicans had a fantastic election in 2010, taking the governorship and the secretary of state's office and taking back the Republican-leaning 2nd House district, but they don't have much of a bench beyond that. They actually have parallel situations on their benches. The most well-known unemployed Democrat in the state is former Gov. Bill Richardson, who left his job as an extremely unpopular figure; former Rep. Heather Wilson, once a Republican rising star, isn't too popular either.

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So this isn't the Republican alley-oop that North Dakota is, even if it's a blow to Democrats.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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