Not even a week into 2010, November Senate contests are already undergoing dramatic change.
Two senior Democrats, Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, have announced their retirements.
In Connecticut, the retirement is good news for Democrats. Dodd was considered a dead duck by many, hurt by his run for the presidency, his banking ties and allegations of sweetheart real estate deals.
He faced opposition from two major candidates: former Rep. Rob Simmons (R) and World Wresting Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon (R). McMahon started advertising immediately after getting into the contest and may spend as much as $30 million.
On the Democratic side, state attorney general Richard Blumenthal, who once worked for Dodd, is immensely popular, has already declared for the seat and is now favored to win. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted in November showed Blumenthal with a 78% – 13% approval rating for his job as attorney general.
In North Dakota, Dorgan’s departure is good news for Republicans.
Sen. Dorgan is extremely popular in the state. Even more popular, however, is Republican Governor John Hoeven, and he is now likely to run for the Senate seat. Several polls showed Hoeven running ahead of Dorgan in a potential contest, but Hoeven never indicated whether or not he would run.
Without Dorgan, if Hoeven enters the race, he is likely to win in a walk. The strongest Democrat who could put together a good campaign is U.S. Representative Earl Pomeroy, but there are doubts whether he will want to tangle with Hoeven. Another possible candidate is former Attorney General and former candidate for Governor Heidi Heitkamp (D).
Dorgan was very active on nuclear weapons issues, and took gutsy positions on the issues on weapons programs destined for his state, including National Missile Defense. As chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, he helped to seal the fate of the Reliable Replacement Warhead.
He will be missed.