Democrat Chris Dodd, the Senate Banking Committee Chairman, Is Retiring

Democrat Chris Dodd, the Connecticut senator who wants to weaken the Fed and name a top financial cop, is expected to announce his decision to not seek reelection in 2010 at a press conference today, according to a report in the Washington Post. His popularity has waned, especially since it became pubic that he obtained two discounted VIP mortgages from Countrywide during the real estate boom. A Senate ethics panel later cleared Dodd of breaking rules by taking the mortgages, but its report said he should have done more to avoid the appearance of sweetheart deals.%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%% Dodd, 65, is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, which is spearheading the efforts on the Senate side to deal with the economic meltdown. He also was a major player in the health care debate.

But his popularity continued to fall since the financial crisis begain, and he's taken a lot of blame for the Senate's inaction through it. He also came under fire for his reliance on Wall Street contributions to fund his political aspirations. A bill he helped write to protect bonuses at AIG (AIG) didn't help his popularity, either.

Another blow to Dodd's was his abandoned attempt to run for president in 2008. That helped to put a nail in his political coffin. He has consistently trailed potential GOP challenger Rob Simmons in Connecticut polls. Simmons, who is a former House member, faces a challenge from World Wrestling Entertainment co-founder Linda McMahon to be the Republican candidate for Dodd's seat.

A Call for Help, but Little Response


However, by stepping aside early in this election year, Dodd increases the chances that the Democrats can hold his seat. He's opening the door for Dems to recruit a more popular candidate who will have the time to run an effective race against what will surely be a serious Republican threat.

Just last week Dodd sent an email to supporters seeking contributions. "The Republicans have declared my seat as one of the top targets and they intend to spend whatever it takes to win," the email told supporters. Given that he's dropping out so quickly after this, the response couldn't have been good. Based on statements as late as Monday, he planned to continue his candidacy.

Creating another worry for Democrats, North Dakota Senator Byron Drogan also announced plans to retire. And so did Colorado's governor, Bill Ritter. Unlike in Connecticut, they'll likely lose Drogan's seat to the GOP. Speculation is that the popular Republican Governor John Hoeven may decide to run. Drogan, 67, was first elected to the Senate in 1992 after serving 12 years in the House. Early polling showed that if Hoeven decides to run, he'd beat Drogan.

Democrats can't afford to lose even one seat if they want to maintain their 60-vote control of the Senate. That control was critical to the Democrats during the recent passage of the health care reform bill. If the Republicans can win even one seat, they'll have a good shot at stalling Obama's agenda for the rest of his term.

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