Exit Jon Kyl, Enter Jeff Flake

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 10 2011 1:36 PM

Exit Jon Kyl, Enter Jeff Flake

WASHINGTON -- Arizona's Sen. Jon Kyl will retire next year, at the end of his third term. Sen. Mitch McConnell touched on this quickly in his boisterous (for him) speech to CPAC, calling the retirement a "big loss for the country." The conservatives in the hall hardly reacted. There were no gasps of regret.

I'm not sure why. There was nothing in Kyl's record to offend Tea Party activists. He carried the ball on the campaign to stop new START last year, and it wasn't successful, but it aligned him perfectly with the right of the party.

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A Kyl-less Arizona U.S. Senate race is a bit like the open race in Texas. There is a wide, deep bench of ambitious Republican talent -- John Shadegg, Jeff Flake, state legislators who have now run the place with supermajorities. So this is significant -- the Club for Growth is already urging Flake to make the race. (Conservative donors have, for years, floated the possibility of Flake challenging or replacing John McCain, who isn't up again until 2016.) I pour grain after grain of salt onto rumors that Janet Napolitano will run -- recent numbers from Public Policy Polling suggest that her tenure at Homeland Security, one of the riskiest jobs in government, has taken her popularity far, far below where it was when she left the governor's office.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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