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Kyl turns 69 in April and is up for re-election in 2012. He steadfastly refuses to discuss his political future with reporters. But he says his unwillingness has less to do with an inclination to retire than a disdain for a media culture that constantly focuses on elections to the detriment of bipartisan legislative achievement. If Kyl runs for a fourth term, he is considered a shoo-in at this early point in the election cycle.
Senators and political operatives who know him and have followed his career describe him as disciplined, hard-working, precise — a lawyer’s lawyer, some say, and above all, patient. A handful of individuals interviewed for this story all used that word unprompted when asked to describe the Arizona Republican.
“He works harder at his job than anybody I know, and he has incredible patience. And he really takes his job extremely seriously,” said Sen. John McCain (R), the senior member of Arizona’s Congressional delegation. “I wouldn’t have his job as the Whip. He has incredible patience.”
Kyl is viewed on both sides of the aisle as highly effective. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called him “a formidable opponent on the issues” who “always takes the time to be well-versed and prepared.”
But Kyl closed the 111th Congress with a defeat in his bid to block ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that Obama signed with Russia earlier in 2010.
Though Kyl said he did not whip the vote, which required a two-thirds majority for ratification, he led the Republican opposition and is disappointed in the outcome. Twelve years earlier, Kyl successfully killed an arms control treaty signed by then-President Bill Clinton.
“This was something that could have been done well but was not, and as a result it was less satisfactory from everyone’s standpoint. There was not time to do it adequately,” Kyl said. “I knew the treaty was not going to be defeated, but I felt I had to have — I had to make the case that it was a very bad way to legislate and that it demeans the Senate to just rubber-stamp an agreement.”