New Mexico Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman is expected to announce his retirement today, according to a source close to the decision, a move that further complicates his party's efforts to hold their Senate majority in 2012.
Bingaman had been mulling whether to run for a fifth term for months and, if he had, would have almost certainly been re-elected.
His retirement, however, creates an open seat contest that both national parties will almost certainly target. Democrats should start the race with an edge, however, given President Obama's 15-point victory margin in the state in 2008.
Bingaman is the fourth Democratic (or Democratic-aligned) Senator to announce that he will not run for re-election in 2012, joining Sens. Jim Webb (Va.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.) on the sidelines.
Some names already being tossed about as potential Republican candidates are Rep. Steve Pearce, who got trounced by Tom Udall in his bid to fill Pete Domenici's open seat in 2008 (admittedly a tough year for Republicans), and former Congresswoman Heather Wilson, who narrowly lost the 2008 primary to Pearce. Wilson, a moderate, has good name recognition across the state and enjoys high popularity. One potential complication: She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last year.
This is a big retirement. The DSCC cannot be pleased.
UPDATE: Wilson was "considering" a 2012 run even before this became an open seat.
UPDATE II: The NRSC is already salivating:
“It speaks volumes about the state of the two political parties that as strong Republican candidates step forward in key races, Senate Democrats in important battleground states are stepping aside. Like the earlier retirements in North Dakota and Virginia, Senator Bingaman’s decision immediately presents another strong pickup opportunity for Senate Republicans. It also further limits the ability of national Democrats to play offense when their resources will be spread out over such an expansive defensive map.
“Whomever the Democrats now choose as their nominee, this election will offer a clear contrast for voters in New Mexico between a fiscally responsible Republican leader and a Democrat who believes we should stay the course on more spending, more taxes, and more government.”