Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fade Out

Two Senate Democrats have decided they will not seek re-election to their seats. Last night it was Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, who decided he wanted to pursue other interests. As I type today, though, Christopher Dodd of Connecticut is announcing his own decision not to seek another term.
The Dorgan announcement was unexpected and unwelcome. Dorgan has been a reliably progressive senator, fighting for cheaper imported drugs and working to help small family farms. Chris Dodd is a different case. His poll numbers in Connecticut are below forty percent, and he hurt himself by running for President in 2008 and practically moving to Iowa with his family the previous summer. All he did was anger his constituents and make himself a running joke for Jon Stewart. However, his role in getting lenient treatment for executives of the bailed out insurance giant AIG and questions over a reportedly favorable deal he got from the scandal-plagued mortgage giant (he was cleared of any wrongdoing) in the midst of a subprime mortgage crisis proved to be no laughing matter.
Dodd's withdrawal - possibly encouraged by the Obama administration - may be a blessing in disguise, as it has cleared the way for Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal to seek the Democratic senatorial nomination. Blumenthal is a popular figure in the Nutmeg State, with a reputation for fighting for the little guy -sort of like Eliot Spitzer without the sexual peccadilloes (I hope!). He is likely to be a heavy favorite. If Democrats can get enough congressional candidates like Blumenthal - candidates to inspire the party base - perhaps they can regain the momentum and excitement from the Obama campaign that has since been lost.
As for Dorgan's seat, North Dakota John Hoeven, a Republican, is an early favorite, though MSNBC commentator Ed Schultz has been urged to move back to North Dakota to run for Senate. (He can't; he has to be a North Dakota resident for at least two years to qualify.) Although it's a Republican state, Democrats are very good at winning Senate elections there because of their ability to connect with voters on a personal level. It's not only one of the least populated states, it's one of the most rural. That may be in part why no Republican has been elected to Congress - House or Senate - since Mark Andrews won a single Senate term in 1980.
More intriguing is Democratic Colorado governor Bill Ritter's decision not to run for a second term this year. He was considered a rising star in the Democratic Party.

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