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Bunning's war cupboard nearly bare

FRANKFORT — As speculation swirls about whether U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning will run for re-election in 2010, his latest campaign finance report shows he has raised little money for the battle ahead.

Bunning's campaign brought in $27,591.44 in the final three months of 2008, according to a Federal Election Commission report filed this week. He had $149,991.09 on hand at the end of the year after spending $52,645.79 in the last quarter of 2008.

Bunning's press secretary, Mike Reynard, was not immediately available to comment on the finance report.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell remained mum on Bunning's re-election prospects during an outing at the National Press Club in Washington.

"Sen. Bunning has not announced his intentions yet," McConnell said in response to questions from reporters about whether Bunning is seen by the GOP as a vulnerable candidate.

Two Washington-based political publications, Politico and The Hill, this week quoted unnamed sources saying that Bunning, R-Southgate, is being pressured by some party leaders not to seek re-election.

Bunning, 77, has insisted that he will seek re-election. He is expected to discuss his political future in a weekly phone call Tuesday with reporters.

U.S. Senate campaigns require much money. Last year's re-election race for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville, cost more than $27 million.

Most of Bunning's contributions in the last three months came from political action committees. His expenditures included more than $5,000 to his daughter, Amy Towles of Fort Thomas, to keep track of his campaign financial paperwork.

Besides the limited fund-raising, Bunning was absent from the Senate for several days earlier this month, missing floor votes and several hearings. Bunning's congressional staffers attributed his absences to family commitments and declined to discuss where the senator was for the better part of a month.

In 2004, Bunning narrowly beat Democrat Daniel Mongiardo, then a state senator and now Kentucky's lieutenant governor. He first was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1998, after serving in the U.S. House from 1987 to 1998. He is in the Baseball Hall of Fame as a major league pitcher.

Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a fellow Republican, has been mentioned as a possible candidate if Bunning does not seek re-election in 2010.

Possible Democratic candidates for the seat include Mongiardo and state Attorney General Jack Conway, among others.