Could it be John Adler vs. Diane Allen next year?

Congressman James Saxton has given absolutely no indication that he might not seek re-election to a thirteenth term, but given the trend of other House members around the country, it's reasonable to speculate that he could retire. Saxton is the presumptive favorite to win next year — even against a first-tier challenger like Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman John Adler — but the first time since he won a hotly contested GOP primary for an open seat in 1984, he may have a real race on his hands. Democrats have made gains at the local level in Burlington and Ocean counties, and George W. Bush won just 51% in this district in 2004.

(Editor's Note: a spokesman for Saxton strongly denied any discussion of retirement, saying that the Republican will definitely seek re-election next year.)

Saxton does have one big incentive: if Republicans win back control of the House, he would be in line to chair the powerful House Armed Services Committee. But Saxton has been passed over before — the House GOP leadership passed over him for the chairmanship of the Resources Committee in 2005 — and if the current political environment holds, he might view the chances of a Republican majority as less than likely.

Saxton will be 65-years-old next year, and it is possible he could decide that a enormously expensive fight with Adler just to get two more years in the minority might not be worth it. Saxton, a teacher and real estate agent before winning a congressional seat 23 years ago, is not an wealthy man — his net worth, according to his financial disclosure reports — ranges from a low of $260,000 to a high of $1 million. He could decide to make some money over the next few years, and as a senior Armed Services Committee member, he could probably land a nice private sector post. And a win in 2008 gets him through one more race before he has to deal with redistricting.

The last time a veteran Congressman decided that a tough race wasn't worth it was in 1994, when Democrat William Hughes chose not to seek an eleventh term. Hughes was facing a rematch with his '92 opponent, Republican Assemblyman Frank LoBiondo, in a year (Bill Clinton's first mid-term election) that was looking good for Republicans. In retirement, the 63-year-old former Assistant Cape May Prosecutor became the United States Ambassador to Panama, and then found his way to a lucrative affiliation with a major New Jersey law firm.

Could it be John Adler vs. Diane Allen next year?