Kyl's Indecision Would Open Door For Divisive Primary
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) continues to keep Republicans guessing about his 2012 plans, and if he decides not to seek reelection, Arizona Republicans could be faced with a crowded primary with no clear successor to the state's junior senator.
Kyl plans to announce his decision in February, and some Arizona Republicans have their doubts about whether he will run.
"Months ago, it was just look, he's busy, he doesn't need to rush. But there seems to be something there there in terms of the speculation about him not running," said Arizona GOP strategist Jason Rose.
Still, there are strategic reasons for Kyl to delay a decision.
"There would be political wisdom in delaying the start of the cycle," said Rose. "Both to avoid any legitimate or semi-legitimate challenge to you within a Republican primary but also to forestall a Democrat from getting any momentum or being able to start any fundraising that might be necessary to take him on."
If Kyl runs for re-election, he will be heavily favored to hold the seat. But if he steps aside, a slew of names are likely to emerge with no clear front-runner in the mix. And party divisions could mean a competitive primary with candidates from opposite ends of the ideological spectrum.
According to Rose, possible candidates include members of the state Congressional delegation including Reps. Jeff Flake (R) and Ben Quayle (R) as well as former Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.). Rose also mentioned candidates on the right including former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) and state Sen. Russell Pearce (R) as possibilities.
Hayworth, a strident critic of illegal immigration, unsuccessfully challenged Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in last year's Republican Senate primary.
Divisions in the party were illustrated in the state's recent GOP chairman's race. Tom Morrissey, a Tea Party-backed candidate, defeated Ron Carmichael, an establishment Republican backed by Kyl.