Embattled Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd (D) has scheduled a press conference at his home in Connecticut Wednesday at which he is expected to announce he will not seek re-election, according to sources familiar with his plans.
Dodd's retirement comes after months of speculation about his political future, and amid faltering polling numbers and a growing sense among the Democratic establishment that he could not win a sixth term. It also comes less than 24 hours after Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) announced he would not seek re-election.
State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is widely expected to step into the void filled by Dodd and, at least at first blush, should drastically increase Democrats' chances of holding the seat.
Blumenthal, who has served as state Attorney General since 1990, is the most popular politician in the state and has long coveted a Senate seat; he had already signaled that he would run for the Democratic nomination against Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) in 2012. (A sidenote: Assuming Blumenthal gets in to the race, Rep. Chris Murphy could be the long-term beneficiary as he is widely regarded as a rising star and would be at the top of the list of Democratic hopefuls to challenge Lieberman in 2012.)
Without Dodd as a foil, Republicans chances of taking over a seat in this solidly blue state are considerably diminished. Former Rep. Rob Simmons and wealthy businesswoman Linda McMahon are battling it out for the Republican nod but either would start as an underdog in a general election matchup with Blumenthal.
Dodd joins North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan on the sidelines for Democrats. Six Republicans Senators are not seeking re-election in November.
Dodd's retirement comes roughly two years after his presidential ambitions came to an end in the Iowa caucuses. Dodd, always a longshot in a field filled with better known and better financed candidates, had moved his family to the Hawkeye State in the fall of 2007 in hopes of generating some excitement for his bid. The move backfired on the Democratic incumbent as many Connecticut voters bristled.
Dodd's political problems were further compounded later in 2008 when it was reported that he had been included in a special VIP mortgage loan program by Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo. Dodd insisted he was unaware of his inclusion and he was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Senate Ethics Committee but the political damage was done.
Once among the safest of incumbents, Dodd's numbers plummeted in the spring of 2009 before rebounding somewhat over the summer. But, a Quinnipiac University poll conducted late last year showed significant slippage for Dodd and led to widespread speculation that he had to vacate the seat for his party to have a chance at retaining it in the upcoming midterm elections.
Dodd's troubles were politically ironic, coming at a time when his power on Capitol Hill had reached a breath-taking level that most legislators dream of but never come close to achieving. In the last 18 months Dodd has been the primary author or co-author of legislation re-writing housing mortgage rules; the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street; key portions of the $787 billion stimulus package; a consumer protection bill overseeing the credit card industry; and the nearly $900 billion health-care legislation that has passed the Senate is in final negotiations with the House now.
Much of this work was done through his chairmanship of the Senate banking committee, but he also held powerful posts on the health and foreign relations committees. With each major piece of legislation Dodd ushered into law in recent years, came criticism that he did not anticipate. The mortgage bill came in mid-2008, which some said was delayed because of Dodd's presidential aspirations, and the financial bailout became one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation passed in recent memory. His work on the stimulus bill, approved last February, was an attempt to rein in executive compensation at firms that had been bailed out, but instead led to sharp criticism when executives at AIG, the largest recipient of taxpayer dollars, still received seven-figure bonuses shortly thereafter.
OMG..... I kind of expected it but now that it's happened I'm freaking out!
Sen. Chris Dodd to announce he's retiring ahead of re-election, NBC News confirms