Republican Sen. Warren Rudman of New Hampshire apparently will announce today that he will not seek re-election to a third term. The move would radically alter the political landscape of the state and could appreciably diminish its clout in Washington.
Sources in the state,asked last night whether Mr. Rudman planned to bow out,would not deny it. One said the senator was so torn by the decision that he wavered several times during the day yesterday.
"It's like a tennis ball going back and forth over the net," said the source. Another source said Mr. Rudman would hold a news conference in Concord today to make "a significant announcement."
Both sources indicated it was still possible that Mr. Rudman would change his mind overnight, but they doubted he would do so. Mr. Rudman, who will be 62 in two months, has been anguishing publicly and privately for months about whether he should remain in the Senate or try a career in business to make "some real money before I get too old," as he put it in an interview in late December.
The internal tug of war has clearly put a strain on him, largely because he enjoys both the camaraderie and the nuts and bolts of an institution in which he has become an important player. At the same time, he has made no secret of his growing frustration in the last several months.
Indeed, for anyone searching for tea leaves about which way Mr. Rudman would go, he seemed to volunteer more than a few just 10 days ago. At the time, his aides distributed copies of a speech he made on the Senate floor in which he denounced both Democrats and Republicans for playing politics with the economy.
Then he added: "The thing that has been really troubling me . . . to try and determine whether to spend another six years of my life in this place with so many fine and wonderful people is: Is it worth it?" He didn't answer the question at the time.
Mr. Rudman has particularly relished his time in the limelight on national- and foreign-policy issues; and he played prominent roles in some of the major debates of the 1980s. Mr. Rudman is a moderate who has seldom hesitated to criticize members of his own party, including then-President Ronald Reagan's clandestine shipment of arms to Iran; he is best known for having co-authored the Gramm-Rudman balanced budget amendment in 1985 and having cochaired the Iran-contra investigating committees two years later.
Polls indicate that such accomplishments have made him the most popular statewide politician in New Hampshire, one whose presence on the ballot next November probably would have helped fellow Republicans. They include President Bush, who is still favored to win there but who showed signs of weakness during last month's primary in the economically ravaged state.
Friends and colleagues of Mr. Rudman, a former state attorney general, have said in interviews that his concern about the state's clout in Washington was a major reason for his indecision about running again. Another, they added, was the domino effect he realized his departure would have back home.
Gov. Judd Gregg has not yet announced whether he will seek his job again, and most analysts believe that is because he has been waiting to see what Mr. Rudman will do.
Mr. Rudman is less doctrinaire than Mr. Gregg, and the two men are not considered to be close either ideologically or personally. Indeed, the senator probably would prefer that his longtime friend and adviser, Concord attorney Tom Rath, succeed him in Washington, but Mr. Rath said in an interview that he would run only if Mr. Gregg did not.