Exits of two senior senators mostly bad news for Democrats
Retirement of Sen. Byron Dorgan means it will be harder for Democrats to keep their filibuster-proof Senate majority after 2010. But the exit of Sen. Christopher Dodd improves Democrats' chances of holding onto his seat.
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A GOP Senate takeover? Not likely – so far
With Democrats controlling 60 Senate seats out of 100, Republicans need 11 Democratic-held seats in play to have a shot at taking over the majority, which they don’t have. What’s more, Democrats have a chance at taking over five Republican-held seats – in Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Louisiana – which makes the Republicans’ chances all the more remote. But the year is young.
For now, though, Democrats – including the president – are taking stock of the departures of Dodd and Dorgan, who between them have won eight six-year terms in the Senate. The White House issued statements on both men, calling Dorgan a “trusted leader for the people of his state” and praising Dodd for “a remarkable record of achievement.”
Dodd’s departure was simultaneously surprising and unsurprising. Dodd loves being a senator, as he noted in his retirement announcement, and it would have been easy to see him go out fighting. But his reelection prospects were bleak, after some damaging events. When he ran in the 2008 presidential cycle, he moved his family temporarily to Iowa, which the people of Connecticut did not appreciate. He was also hurt by the revelation that he had received VIP treatment on a mortgage from tainted lender Countrywide Financial, even though Dodd insisted he didn’t know he was getting a favor and was cleared of wrongdoing by the Senate Ethics Committee.
Dorgan is being lauded as a progressive populist who has quietly but forcefully advocated for his causes, particularly economic.
“There’s just a fundamental decency about him,” says Jonathan Rowe, a former staffer. “He was always looking for opportunities to reach across the aisle, to diminish the rancor.”
[Editor's note: The subhead has been changed to accurately characterize how the two senators' retirements affect the Democrats' Senate prospects in 2010.]
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