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Wis. Dem. Sen. Herb Kohl will retire

U.S. Herb Kohl, Dem of Wisc., will announce today that he will not seek reelection when his term expires next year, Chris Cillizza of the Wash Post blog “The Fix” reports.

Kohl, who has been a quiet senator, is 76 and in his fourth term. He is from a wealthy family that owns the Kohl’s chain of grocery and department stores. He also owns the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team.

Kohl has won all of his previous races comfortably, including a 28 percentage point margin in his 2006 reelection and the seat had been rated safe for the Dems on the assumption that Kohl would run. His retirement will create an open seat in a swing state that trended strongly Republican in 2010. (That’s an understatement.)

Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report responded to this morning’s news by removing the Wisconsin seat from the “safe Democrat” category, but he left it in the “leans Democrat” category, commenting that “Gov. Scott Walker’s agenda has energized Democrats” in Wisconsin.

The departure complicates the Dems already shaky prospects for holding onto their slim Senate majority next year. Kohl is the sixth Dem senator who would have been up in 2012 who has decided to hang it up, compared to just two Repubs.

But the big factor favoring the Repubs in 2012 Senate races, at least at the outset, is (as I’ve mentioned several times before) this: of the 33 seats that will be on the ballot in 2012, 23 are currently held by Dems, which means Repubs have far more pickup opportunities. Of course, as Dem incumbents — especially those, like Kohl, who are still quite popular at home — retire, it improves the Repubs’ prospects even more.

In the Wisconsin case, one immediately wonders whether Russ Feingold might attempt a comeback.

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