Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert announced today that he won't run for re-election in 2008. The Illinois representative, who held the position of speaker longer than any other Republican, stepped down from his leadership post in 2006 after the Democrats took control of the House. Rumors of his retirement have circulated ever since. Democratic challengers have been eyeing Hastert's seat, sensing that his ties to the Bush administration would make him easy to pick off in the 2008 election. At least three candidates threatened to challenge Hastert, including state Rep. Linda LaVia and Bill Foster, an entrepreneur who started a company that is the world's largest maker of stage lights. A slew of other Republicans have announced retirement, making the Democrats even more enthusiastic.
As to what the former speaker will do next, he hasn't said. But, according to Washington Whispers' Paul Bedard, Hastert lost 85 pounds with a new diet and by swimming laps. As Bedard suggested, perhaps now that Hastert's in better shape, the former high school wrestling coach can go back to doing just that.