U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka announced today that he will not run for re-election in 2012.
Akaka, 86, has served in the Senate since 1990. He previously served a little more than 13 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"After months of thinking about my political future, I am announcing today that I have decided not to run for re-election in 2012," Akaka said in a statement. "As many of you can imagine, it was a very difficult decision for me. However, I feel that the end of this Congress is the right time for me to step aside. It has been a great honor and privilege to serve the people of Hawaii. In 2006, the people of Hawaii gave me an opportunity to continue my service in the United States Senate and I fully intend to serve the last two years of my term in office."
Hawaii's former Republican Governor Linda Lingle has been toying with a run at Akaka for some time, so a shot at an open seat may prove irresistible. The party will probably apply some pressure for her to run, too.
The good news: Lingle was a fairly popular chief executive, will be decently funded, and has excellent name recognition. Also, open seats are almost always in play, and this retirement will force Democrats to play defense -- and spend money -- in a state they were hoping to have in the bag.
The bad news: You know who will be on the ballot in 2012, and his approval rating in his home state is other-worldly at 66 percent. Expect significant coattails for the Democratic nominee. Also, an effective Hawaiian Republican Party is basically non-existent.
I had a conversation with a Republican strategist the other day, and we discussed Hawaii as a possible dark horse Senate race for the GOP. That was before Akaka's decision, so that horse is dark no more. Aloha, Hawaii. McConnell's crew needs to win four seats to take back the upper chamber. Will Senator Lingle help them get there? With all these early breaks going Republicans' way, no wonder the DSCC is already resorting to unconscionable personal attacks.