That's a big, whopping, surprise retirement:

“Although I still have a passion for public service and enjoy my work in the Senate, I have other interests and I have other things I would like to pursue outside of public life. I have written two books and have an invitation from a publisher to write two more books. I would like to do some teaching and would also like to work on energy policy in the private sector.

“So, over this holiday season, I have come to the conclusion, with the support of my family, that I will not be seeking another term in the U.S. Senate in 2010. It is a hard decision to make after thirty years in the Congress, but I believe it is the right time for me to pursue these other interests.

“Let me be clear that 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.

Republican Gov. John Hoeven had been pondering a run against Dorgan, and some are suggesting this announcement may have come because Dorgan has inside information about Hoeven's plans.

Jim Geraghty on Hoeven's chances:

...Some folks in that neck of the woods seem to think a Governor John Hoeven –Senator Byron Dorgan matchup is very likely. This would be fantastic news for the GOP, as Hoeven is very popular and one poll had him topping Dorgan by 20 percentage points...

A Republican watching the potential match-up closely tells me that while all the polling data is obviously supremely encouraging — especially this one that shows a whopping 64 percent of North Dakotans opposed to the health care bill Dorgan just voted to move forward.

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