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House Dem 257   GOP 178  

Map of the 2010 Senate Races
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PW logo Blumenthal Starts Senate Bid with Huge Leads Is Brown Closing on Coakley?
Hayworth Serious About McCain Challenge Ritter Retirement Helps Democrats in Colorado
One for the Gipper Gingrich Calls for New "Contract with America"

News from the Votemaster

Dorgan Retiring in North Dakota     Permalink

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) announced 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     Permalink

But Democrats also have some good news. Embattled Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) is expected 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.

State Incumbent Party Type Notes
CO Michael Bennet Dem Reg. Appointed after Ken Salazar became Sec. of the Interior
CT Chris Dodd Dem Reg. Polls show that he would have been crushed
DE Ted Kaufman Dem Spec. Appointed to Joe Biden's seat; retiring in 2010
FL George LeMieux GOP Reg. Placeholder appointed after Mel Martinez' retirement
IL Roland Burris Dem Reg. Appointed to Barack Obama's seat
KS Sam Brownback GOP Reg. Retiring; running for governor
MO Kit Bond GOP Reg. Retiring; had enough and would be in for a tough battle
NH Judd Gregg GOP Reg. Retiring after appointment flap
NY Kirsten Gillibrand Dem Spec. Appointed when Hillary Clinton became Sec. of State
ND Byron Dorgan Dem Reg. Retiring from politics
OH George Voinovich GOP Reg. Retiring; had enough and would be in for a tough battle
PA Arlen Specter Dem Reg. Specter ran in 2004 as a Republican, now as a Democrat

Ritter May Retire in Colorado     Permalink

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     Permalink

Democratic leaders in both chambers of Congress have agreed 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 Rasmussen poll 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     Permalink

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 abruptly resigned 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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