(By American Zen
's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
Less than 24 hours after Senator Byron Dorgan, the senior senator from North Dakota, announced he will not seek reelection this fall, word began leaking out that Senator Chris Dodd
of Connecticut will follow him out the door. The speculation in both cases is that Dorgan and Dodd wish to spend more time with lobbyists and corporate special interests.
With their retirement after the 2010 midterms and Senator Ted Kennedy's death last August, the Democratic Party will be losing more than just three fabulous heads of hair. Add to the defections seat-warmer Roland Burris of Illinois announcing way back last year that he would not seek to retain his seat now that he can put "US Senator" on his mausoleum, Ted Kaufman of Delaware having no interest in keeping Joe Biden's old seat and 92 year-old Robert Byrd of West Virginia is obviously on the way out. Kirsten Gillibrand's and Paul Kirk's seats are up for grabs in New York and Massachusetts, respectively, and it looks as if the Democrats' chances of maintaining their 60 seat majority look pretty dim.
And that's just as well. The fractious Democratic Party in both chambers have done at least as much damage as Joe Lieberman and his allies in the obstructionist GOP, shattering (hopefully) the myth of the invincible filibuster-proof majority.
The news isn't all grim: In the Nutmeg State, the usual speculation and jockeying for position has already begun and Dodd's seat is already being unofficially handed over to Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who'd already announced his intention to run for Dodd's seat
before Dodd had a chance to make his announcement. Despite Dodd's wild unpopularity since the financial meltdown and his embarrassing kitchen table presidential campaign, Barack Obama handily carried Connecticut during his own campaign. With Blumenthal's already high numbers in the Connecticut straw polls, he ought to make a mockery of any Republican wannabes like WWE bozoette Linda McMahon.
Dorgan of North Dakota, Gillibrand of New York, Kirk of Massachusetts, Kaufman of Delaware, and Burris of Illinois are different stories entirely. Dorgan's seat is already credibly contested by North Dakota Republicans and Gillibrand, Kaufman, Kirk and Burris have simply been in the Senate far too briefly to restore any credibility for their party let alone build up personal reputations. There are no more Obamas in the Senate.
North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven was projected in a poll a few weeks ago to beat Dorgan by a healthy 58-36 margin and is quite popular among Republican voters.
Gillibrand's main GOP rival, it would seem, is Rep. Peter King, a typical Republican hair-on-fire alarmist who made headlines during the holidays following the attempted Flight 253 bombing. King would have to raise between $30-40 million, by his own estimate and travel all over the state to run for Gillibrand's seat. Yet out of all the GOP contenders in New York, King is the only one with any national recognition.
Don't laugh. King's got a chance should he decide to run. We're talking about the same country that saw fit to elect laughingstocks like honorary redneck Bobby Jindal, Sonny Bono, Michele Bachmann, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura to public office, to say nothing about voting enough times for an intellectual and moral anorexic like George W. Bush to make two thefts of the presidency seem plausible.
When Obama began plundering the Senate for talent after his election, worries of a brain drain on the left side of the aisle were waved aside with confident arguments that the state governors in question would appoint Democrats. So one by one we saw Democrats leave the Senate, starting with Biden, then Clinton, then Ken Salazar. Seat warmers were appointed, two of whom deciding not to run for re-election and with the failing Byrd, the departing Dorgan and Dodd and the potentially vulnerable Gillibrand and the 71 year-old Paul Kirk, the argument of Democratic governors making Democratic appointments to the Senate is a tack that now seems short-sighted.