Mikulski running unannounced campaign for re-election

Baltimore Sun

For the past year, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski has been running a very successful, though unannounced, campaign for re-election in 2010.

She's traveled the state, raised money, hired a campaign manager and stashed away more than $2 million in campaign cash. That's not a huge pile of money, but it's enough for now - with no major opponent in sight and no apparent prospect that one will materialize.

Independent analysts and strategists in both parties have consistently rated Mikulski a safe bet for re-election, increasingly rare for a Democratic incumbent this year.

Like any politician, she'd prefer that constituents view her as a public servant, rather than as a candidate. Once voters recognize that she's running, it tends to make everything she does look more political.

Mikulski said in an interview Wednesday that she intends to wait a few more months before formally announcing.

Of course, politicians can tiptoe to the edge and veer away, like Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, who proclaimed himself weary of Washington partisanship and announced his retirement.

Mikulski, who prizes her reputation as a fighter, won't be taking that route.

She said she will make a "declaration of positive intent" in mid-spring, "when we're beyond both the snow and the melt."

Meantime, she'll continue to ramp up her 2010 effort. She's scheduled a major fundraising event in Maryland on March 15.

The lawmaker from Baltimore, elected to the Senate in 1986 and that body's senior woman, has invited her Democratic female colleagues - a dozen in all - to attend the Ides of March event.

Mikulski, 73, seem fully recovered from a serious ankle injury that limited her mobility for months last year. But that hasn't prevented health rumors from circulating.

On Monday, shortly after Bayh surprised Democrats by announcing that he was quitting, an obscure right-wing blogger posted a report that Mikulski would be announcing in a few days that she will step down. The groundless report was picked up by other blogs - including some that clear the very low bar for respectability in this realm - without bothering to check its validity.

"I'm not shy," Mikulski declared, "and I'm not retiring."

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