Arizona’s Sen. John Kyl will retire next year, at the end of his third term. Sen. Mitch McConnell touched on this quickly in his boisterous (for him) speech to CPAC, calling the retirement a “big loss for the country.” The conservatives in the hall hardly reacted. There were no gasps of regret.
I’m not sure why. There was nothing in Kyl’s record to offend Tea Party activists. He carried the ball on the campaign to stop new START last year, and it wasn’t successful, but it aligned him perfectly with the right of the party. ~Dave Weigel
My guess is that the audience wasn’t moved for a few reasons. Kyl is the Senate minority whip, and he has been in the Republican Senate leadership since 2007. As long as Tea Party activists correctly see McConnell as a compromised establishment Republican, Kyl is probably tainted by this association with the party establishment. It doesn’t help Kyl that McConnell was the one mentioning the retirement. What certainly doesn’t help is that Kyl voted for the TARP, as most of his Senate colleagues did*, so it isn’t really true that there was nothing in Kyl’s record to offend them. Kyl voted for the bailout that ended the career of at least one Republican incumbent in neighboring Utah.
As for Kyl’s resistance on New START, I suppose it’s true that he defended the position favored by a lot of conservative activists and many Tea Partiers. On the other hand, if fighting an arms control treaty is the main thing he’s known for, that’s more likely to elicit yawns than cheers. As I see it, Kyl’s opposition to the treaty was a bad end to an unremarkable career in the Senate, and Arizona would be well-served to have someone like Jeff Flake take his place in the upper chamber. For the record, Flake voted against the TARP.
* How many Republican Senators returning in 2011 were anti-TARP votes? Just eleven: Sessions, Shelby, Barasso, Enzi, DeMint, Inhofe, Wicker, Cochran, Roberts, Vitter, and Crapo.