Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman is expected to announce his retirement today, deepening the difficulty the party faces in its efforts to hold the chamber in 2012. Bingaman, who is in his fifth term, joins colleagues Virginia’s Jim Webb and North Dakota’s Kent Conrad in declining to run for re-election. (Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent, also caucuses with the Democrats.) In each case, the retirement darkens the party’s prospects in tough states. Bingaman won 70% of the vote in 2006, and would have been favored to fend off any challenger. Democrats, who hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, have a lot of territory to defend: the party holds 23 of the 33 seats to be contested next fall. Their task just got that much harder. As for how the race to succeed Bingaman may shape up, Chris Cillizza suggests:
Reps. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan will almost certainly be mentioned on the Democratic side as might that of former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish.
Former Rep. Heather Wilson has been mentioned as a possible Republican candidate and sources close to Rep. Steve Pearce say he is looking seriously at running.
President Obama coasted in New Mexico in 2008. Last fall Republican Susana Martinez easily won the statehouse, while Democrats held onto two of the state’s three seats in the House.