Dorgan Retiring in North Dakota
Both Democrats and Republicans have something to cheer about in today's news.
First the good news for the Republicans.
Three-term Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
yesterday that he will retire in 2011 and not run for reelection next year. Although he might have
faced a challenge from popular governor John Hoeven (R-ND), Dorgan is a popular senator with considerable
clout in the Senate and could probably have won reelection. With Dorgan out of the race, Hoeven is very
likely to jump in immediately and will become the odds on favorite now. All of a sudden out of the blue, this
seat becomes the most likely one in the entire Senate to switch parties.
Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), the state's only representative, now faces a choice. He is the logical pick to run
against Hoeven since he has already won statewide races nine times. However, running for the Senate and losing means
he also loses his relatively safe House seat. So if Pomeroy runs for the Senate, the Republicans will probably pick up
both a Senate seat and a House seat. If he stays put, they will probably gain only the Senate seat.
If Hoeven goes after the Senate seat, in theory the Democrats have a chance to pick up the governorship, but since
North Dakota has only one House seat, there is nothing to gerrymander.
Who'd want to be governor of a state with nothing to gerrymander?
Besides, the Democrats don't have any serious
gubernatorial candidates--unlike in South Dakota, where Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) is widely expected to
sooner or later run for governor (a job her grandfather once had). Thus with a little bit of luck, by next year,
the Republicans will have the Senate seat, the House seat, and the governorship.
Dodd Retiring in Connecticut
But Democrats also have some good news.
Embattled Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) is
to announce his retirement today. Dodd has served five terms in the Senate, but has come under withering criticism
for his failure as head of the Senate banking committee to oversee the banks and for a sweetheart mortgage he got from
one of the banks he was supposed to oversee.
Between the criticism, poor polls, and a bout with prostate cancer last summer, Dodd apparently has decided to call it a day.
Dodd's retirement is good news for the Democrats as they were in great danger of losing this seat, even in very
blue Connecticut. Most political observers expect Connecticut's Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal (D), to quickly announce
he is running for the open seat. Blumenthal is the most popular politician
in Connecticut and even if Republican hopeful Linda McMahon follows through on her promise to spend $50 million of
her own money on this race, Blumenthal is still the odds-on favorite. In fact, against Blumenthal, McMahon may well
have second thoughts. Spending $50 million to buy a Senate seat is one thing; throwing away $50 million for nothing
is something completely different. If McMahon decides that she has no chance against Blumenthal, she may drop out,
leaving former representative Rob Simmons (R) as the Republican nominee. That is, unless the tea partiers go after him.
In Congress, he was a pro-union, pro-environment moderate. They might decide to support a minor candidate, Peter
Schiff, a financial broker and commentator, to prevent Simmons from getting the nomination.
There are now a dozen Senate races in which the 2004 winner will not be running (including Pennsylvania, where the 2004
winner will be running, but for the other party). Here is the list.
|| Michael Bennet
|| Appointed after Ken Salazar became Sec. of the Interior
|| Chris Dodd
|| Polls show that he would have been crushed
|| Ted Kaufman
|| Appointed to Joe Biden's seat; retiring in 2010
|| George LeMieux
|| Placeholder appointed after Mel Martinez' retirement
|| Roland Burris
|| Appointed to Barack Obama's seat
|| Sam Brownback
|| Retiring; running for governor
|| Kit Bond
|| Retiring; had enough and would be in for a tough battle
|| Judd Gregg
|| Retiring after appointment flap
|| Kirsten Gillibrand
|| Appointed when Hillary Clinton became Sec. of State
|| Byron Dorgan
|| Retiring from politics
|| George Voinovich
|| Retiring; had enough and would be in for a tough battle
|| Arlen Specter
|| Specter ran in 2004 as a Republican, now as a Democrat
Ritter May Retire in Colorado
Political Wire is reporting
that Gov. Bill Ritter (D-CO) is planning to forego a second term and retire in 2011, giving the Republicans a shot
at the governorship and thus a potential veto over redistricting plans after the 2010 census.
However, Ritter's retirement might also shake up the Senate race. Currently, former Colorado House Speaker
Andrew Romanoff is planning a primary challenge to Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), but with an open governor's seat, he might
reconsider his position and go for the state's top job instead, freeing Bennet from a potentially bloody primary.
House Will Edit Senate Health-Care Bill
Democratic leaders in both chambers of Congress have
to bypass a formal conference to resolve differences between the two health-insurance reform bills.
A conference would have required multiple votes to elect conferees, give them instructions, etc. and the Republicans
could have (and would have) filibustered every vote. Instead, the House will simply take the Senate bill and toss it into
the word processor to change it here and there. Then the Senate will take a look at the printout and see if it likes the
result. If not, it may ping-pong back and forth until there is convergence.
Key issues separating the two bills are the presence/absence of a public option, how the plan will be financed,
when various provisions will start, how poor do you have to be to qualify for Medicaid, exactly who will be eligible for
the health-insurance plan federal employees get, and so on.
The Democrats want to get the bill passed before President Obama's state-of-the-union speech so he will be able to
crow about it. One (minor) factor they have to consider though is the special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy,
which will be held on Jan. 19. A recent
puts Martha Coakley (D) only 9 points ahead of Scott Brown (R).
Special elections like this have notoriously low turnout and an unexpected upset by Brown will give the Republicans the
41 votes they need to block the health-insurance bill. For this reason, Democrats would prefer to get the bill through
the Senate before the election, although that may not be easy given all the differences between the two bills.
What is a bit surprising is the lack of interest among tea partiers in the Coakley-Brown race. If their real concern
was truly about stopping what they consider to be "horrible socialist legislation" then one might think they would be
moving to Massachusetts in droves to help campaign for Brown (or at least donate wads of money to his campaign)
since his election would actually stop the bill.
But such is not the case. It leads one to think that they just enjoy sounding off and making a big splash in the news
rather than taking the one concrete step that actually has a realistic chance of killing the bill.
Chairman of the Florida Republican Party Quits
Normally the retirement of a state party chairman is not big news, but this one is.
Jim Greer, the head of the Florida Republican Party, has given in to immense pressure from backers of
Senate candidate Marco Rubio (R) and
his position. Greer openly backed Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) in the Senate primary, which really angered conservatives.
Greer's demise will be seen by all sides as another nail in Crist's coffin and will be taken by tea partiers as a huge
victory. However, when the dust settles, the real winner may be Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL), the only person foolish enough
to enter the Senate race against the popular Crist, who everyone assumed would win the primary and the general election
in a landslide. If Rubio wins the primary, as looks increasinly likely, the general election could be close.
Or possibly other Democrats might reconsider entering the primary now since Rubio is a far softer target than Crist.
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