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Sen. McConnell Skirts Bunning Endorsement

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell still won't say
if he will endorse his fellow Republican senator from Kentucky.
"Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace brought up the 2010 race,
in which 77-year-old U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning is seeking a third term,
but has gotten a chilly reception from top Republicans and is
struggling with fundraising.
McConnell, who has skirted the question several times in past
weeks at state events, would only respond that the contest is still
unfolding.
Bunning did not respond to a phone message Sunday seeking
comment.
He has been sharply critical of McConnell, blaming him for
losing Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter to the Democrats and costing
the party Senate seats in 2008. He has also blamed GOP leaders for
trying to thwart his fundraising in an effort to force him to
retire.
"Well, what's happening in Kentucky, obviously, is the race has
not yet formed," McConnell told Wallace on Sunday. "Senator
Bunning has encouraged someone to file an exploratory committee.
There are now two exploratory committees. And there's a Democratic
primary on the other side. I think it's safe to say the Kentucky
Senate race is unfolding."
When Wallace responded that he "didn't hear an endorsement
there," McConnell said: "Well, it's - it's just not clear exactly
who the players are going to be in Kentucky."
"So you're not endorsing him," Wallace tried again.
"It's not clear who the players are going to be yet,"
McConnell replied.
Bunning's two possible GOP rivals are Kentucky Secretary of
State Trey Grayson and Bowling Green eye surgeon Rand Paul, son of
U.S. Rep. and former presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas.
Both have formed exploratory committees, which allow candidates
to raise and spend money. Grayson, who has said he won't run unless
Bunning decides to abandon his re-election bid, was given the green
light by Bunning himself.
Paul on Friday announced the formation of his committee,
praising Bunning for his conservative votes on the bank bailout and
saying he will not challenge him if he stays in the race.
Paul said Sunday he feels sympathy for Bunning, who he feels is
getting "some mistreatment" by GOP leaders who are publicly
trying to push him out.
"But I think that Bunning has brought some of this on
himself," Paul said. "It still makes no sense to me that he
encouraged someone else to form an exploratory committee."
Grayson's campaign did not return a telephone call seeking
comment.
On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, who lost to
Bunning in 2004 by a narrow margin, and Attorney General Jack
Conway, have announced their interest in the seat.
"The player on the Democratic side is going to be Lt. Gov.
Daniel Mongiardo," said Kim Geveden, an adviser to the Mongiardo
campaign. "Sen. McConnell may not know who is going to be the
player on the Republican side. Right now, they just seem to be on a
circular firing squad and we'll just wait to see who comes out of
it."
Mark Riddle, an adviser to the Conway campaign, did not
immediately return a telephone message.
Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher who was the first to record 100
wins and 1,000 strikeouts in both the American and National
Leagues, said during his weekly news conference last week he was
encouraged by the response he got at a recent Kentucky Republican
gathering and said he has a series of campaign fundraisers
scheduled.
But he raised only $262,980 in the first quarter and has said he
will need about $7 million to go up against a Democratic
challenger.
He has also issued two public apologies, including one for
remarks that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could
soon die of pancreatic cancer. Bunning also issued an apology to
his Christian evangelical base a day after he responded to a
reporter's question by using an expletive.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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