STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The 2010 election season has barely begun - on the surface, anyway - but there is news this morning that three Democrats have decided not to run for re-election to big jobs. Christopher Dodd, who has represented Connecticut in the United States Senate for three decades, was facing a tough campaign and now, he's checked out. Two other top Democrats, a senator and a governor, have also decided not to seek another term.
We're going to talk about this with NPR's Ken Rudin. He's our political editor. Ken, good morning.
KEN RUDIN: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: Was Senator Dodd's announcement a surprise for you?
RUDIN: Well, it was a surprise only because he said he was running, and he was running and he was raising money. But it - here's where it shouldn't have been a surprise: His poll numbers have been awful for a year. He's probably the most vulnerable senator of either party, even in a state as blue as Connecticut, which hasn't elected a Republican to the Senate since 1982. He trailed his Republican opponents in every - polls. There were charges he got sweetheart mortgage deals from Countryside Financial. He helped...
INSKEEP: Countrywide Financial, yes.
RUDIN: That's right. Countrywide, that's right. He helped write the bill that protected the bonuses for the executives of AIG. They said he was too close to the insurance company. And in 2008, when he was running for president, he moved his entire family to Iowa for the caucuses, a move that turned out to be very unpopular back in Connecticut.
INSKEEP: So we should you have this guy who, we should remember, was chairman of a powerful committee. He ended up being central to the whole response to the financial crisis, which is something where you could come off as a hero, or you could come off hated. And it seems like it worked against him.
RUDIN: That's true. And also, he played a major role in the overhaul of the health-care system, too. Because when Ted Kennedy was very ill, it was Chris Dodd who picked up the reins and really shepherded most of that language, too. But again, it's not totally bad news for the Democratic Party. Richard Blumenthal, the state attorney general who at noon today will announce he is running, he's the most popular politician in Connecticut. And so while the headlines say that the Democrats are bailing ship, you know, there's another bailout. But in the case of Connecticut, it may not be the worst news for the Democrats.
INSKEEP: What about in North Dakota, where there's another U.S. senator, a Democratic senator, who is retiring, Byron Dorgan?
RUDIN: That was a bigger shock and probably much worse news for the Democrats. This is a very red state. It always votes Republican for president. John McCain got 53 percent of the vote in North Dakota. But it seems to love its Democratic senators, Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan. Dorgan has been there since 1986. But again, he just said he's tired of the whole thing. He got tired of the bickering, the lack of comity - not comedy but comity. And they have a very popular Republican there, John Hoeven, Republican governor there. And if Hoeven does run for the Senate, it looks like there could be a Republican pick-up. While Chris Dodd's numbers were always bad, Dorgan's were not. And I think that's the bigger shock here.
INSKEEP: There's another big Democratic governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter, who's decided not to run. We've just got a little time left here, Ken Rudin. I'm curious if these three retirement announcements mean something significant for the Republican Party now, who will be trying to capture those seats.
RUDIN: Well, of course, you know, in the first midterm election of a new president, the in party always loses seats, and that's to be expected. This was a very bad-sounding day for the Democratic Party. Republicans hope to take advantage of it. But again, each state is individual and it could not - it may not be as bad for the Democrats as the headlines make it look out to be.
INSKEEP: Ken, thanks very much.
RUDIN: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's political editor Ken Rudin. He writes the Political Junkie blog on npr.org. And again, our news here this morning: Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd says he will retire rather than seek re-election. The same is true of Byron Dorgan, Democratic senator of North Dakota. And Colorado's Democratic governor, Bill Ritter, has also decided not to seek another term.
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