Veteran Dems’ Exits Could Shake Up Senate

Dodd and Dorgan won't seek re-election in November

MIA Mayer Hawthorne
Photo courtesy of HughE Dillon -

Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd's expected retirement announcement came just hours after fellow Democrat  Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) declared he would not run for re-election in November either, delivering a one-two punch to the party's veteran leadership.

Pundits’ initial take is that Dorgan’s exit makes North Dakota a competitive Senate battleground for Republicans, while Dodd’s decision clears the way for a more popular Democrat to salvage his Senate office in November’s midterm elections:

  • “Holy Crap,” blogged TalkingPointsMemo editor Josh Marshall, responding to news of Dodd's likely departure. “Dorgan's seat was probably safe until he retired. Now it's a probable Republican pick up,” he wrote. “On the other hand, Dodd's being on the ticket took a really blue state and made it a very possible Republican pick up. It's still a bad climate for Dems.”
  • “Dodd's troubles were politically ironic, coming at a time when his power on Capitol Hill had reached a breath-taking level that most legislators dream of but never come close to achieving,” writes Chris Cillizza for The Washington Post. As chair of the Senate banking committee, Dodd played a major role in the $700 billion Wall Street bailout. But Dodd was weakened by revelations he got a sweetehart mortgage from disgraced Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo, Cillizza writes.
  • Breaking news of Dodd’s retirement was “just the kind of thing that would ignite a lot of reporting and discussion” on cable networks blogged Roger Catlin for the Hartford Courant. The only problem: TV news talking heads were at home sleeping. “Something like this shines a light on the myth of the 24-hour cable news cycle, which exists now mainly on the Internet; the TV news operations take the night off."
  • “It is not shaping up to be a pretty week for the Democrats” with pols “dropping like flies,” blogged ABC News’ Rick Klein for The Note even before news broke of Dodd's decision. Klein predicted Republicans would also jump on news that Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry is ending his governor’s bid, Colorado’s first term Democratic governor  plans to bow out of his reelection fight, and on Sen. Dorgan's exit.
  • Republican National Committee chair Michael Steel did just that. "Today's announcement by Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota that he will not seek reelection in 2010 highlights just how vulnerable both Senate and House Democrats have become since deciding to walk in lockstep with President Obama's government-run policies,” Steele said in a statement. “For nearly a year Congressional Democrats have been turning a deaf ear to the concerns of the American people and as the elections of 2010 approach, many of these same Democrats are deciding to simply leave office instead of risking certain defeat.”
  • Sen. Dorgan’s decision is “un-spinnably bad news for the Democrats,” blogged polling wunderkind Nate Silver for FiveThirtyEight. Democrats are losing one of their MVPs because the North Dakota senator was “way more progressive than you'd ordinarily expect of a Senator from a Prairie State,” he wrote. Dorgan's decision not to seek re-election puts North Dakota at the top of Silver’s list of states that will likely switch parties in mid-term Senate elections.
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