By Mark Willen, Senior Political Editor July 2, 2009 Just a day after Al Franken finally got his ticket to become the 60th member of the Senate Democratic caucus, Republican hopes for reversing the trend next year were dealt another setback when former New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu decided he won't try for a comeback next year. Sununu, who lost to Democrat Jeanne Shaheen in 2008, was considered the GOP's best hope for holding onto the seat of Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, who plans to retire rather than seek reelection.The New Hampshire seat will still be competitive, and Gregg is trying to recruit Attorney General Kelly Ayotte to face the likely Democratic nominee, Rep. Paul Hodes. But Republicans in the Northeast are becoming as scarce as jobs in Ohio. Apart from Gregg and Maine's two moderate madam senators, they're awfully hard to find. Which is one reason why Republicans keep trying to talk Gregg out of retiring (without success thus far). In fact, the landscape doesn't look good for the GOP in 2010, as we've noted in this space before. They'll do well to just hold on to the 40 seats they have, let alone score big gains. At least that's the way it looks now. Rhodes Cook, an analyst who studies the past to understand the present and future, has an interesting look at modern trends and concludes that a Republican comeback could come a lot sooner than most pundits think. Cook notes that the situation also looked bleak for the GOP after the 1964, 1976 and 1992, but in each case the party bounced back in a big way. At the same time, he warns, this won't happen unless Republicans move rapidly to find leaders and messages that can draw support from beyond the party's conservative core. Stay tuned.