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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

N Dakota: Sen Dorgan (D) Won't Run For Re-election, Opens a Huge Door For a Likely Republican Gain

A bombshell was dropped on the newswire late today:

Sen. Byron Dorgan, a 18-year veteran Democrat, dropped a late-day bombshell, announcing he will retire when his term ends this year. Dorgan's announcement represents an opportunity for Republicans: North Dakota is a Republican-leaning state, where President Obama got just 45% of the vote last year.

In a statement just released by his office, Dorgan says he wants "to make time for other priorities" after more than 30 years in public life. He insists he's not disillusioned with politics, though he did express dismay over the increasingly partisan tone on Capitol Hill. Here is what Dorgan, 67, said in his statement:

"This decision does not relate to any dissatisfaction that I have about serving in the Senate. Yes, I wish there was less rancor and more bipartisanship in the U.S. Senate these days. But still, it is a great privilege to serve and I have the utmost respect for all of the men and women with whom I serve. . . And although he inherited an economy in serious trouble, I remain confident that President Obama is making the right decisions to put our country back on track. Further, my decision has no relationship to the prospect of a difficult election contest this year. Frankly, I think if I had decided to run for another term in the Senate I would be reelected."

Up until today, there was no indication that Dorgan might step down. The non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report rated the veteran Democrat as having a lock on re-election, and USA TODAY's Fredreka Schouten reports that Dorgan had a healthy campaign warchest of $3.9 million as of Sept. 30.

He may have more money than any other possible challenger at this time, but they forgot to mention his abysmal polling numbers.

To make matters worse for Dorgan, the former ND Governor Hoeven is said to be taking a serious look at running against him. In a poll from late December, Dorgan was 22 points behind the popular Republican governor in a heads-up race.

His support for Obamacare and vote for the Senate HCR bill aren't helping, either. Almost two-thirds of North Dakotans don't want the current healthcare bill to pass. While his personal approval numbers are as bad as one might think, compared to Hoeven's, it's very lopsided. He won't admit it, but his bad poll numbers and falling popularity of Obama and the Congressional attempts at healthcare reform was probably a huge factor in his decision not to run.

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