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Dodd Follows Dorgan's Lead, Will Retire

8:56 AM, Jan 6, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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You know he's bad off when MSNBC calls the Democrat "embattled."

Given Dodd's bad poll standing, other Democrats have gone out of their way to give him the spotlight in hopes he could recover before November.

With Dodd stepping aside, Democrats can now try to recruit a more popular candidate to run in the Democratic-leaning state, bolstering the prospects of thwarting a Republican victory. Among the early favorites to replace Dodd is longtime Connecticut state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is seen as one of the state's most popular politicians.

The NBC story mentions his "political stock began to fall after the financial crisis," but fails to mention that much of the reason for that is he was overseeing the banking committee, and ostensibly the banking industry, before the fall.

The story also fails to mention until the penultimate paragraph that he got sweetheart mortgage rates from Countrywide, a now defunct subprime mortgage lender that dealt in the kind of risky loans that brought the industry down. Or, that he promised to show everyone his mortgage papers to a year and a half ago, but never did. Or, that there are similar concerns about his purchase of a cottage in Ireland.

Or, that leading the charge on the Senate's incredibly unpopular health-care bill after his friend Sen. Edward Kennedy passed away may have something to do with his terrible poll numbers.

Chris Cillizza calls it ironic:

Dodd's troubles were politically ironic, coming at a time when his power on Capitol Hill had reached a height that most legislators only dream of. In addition to the banking committee, he also held pivotal posts on the health and foreign relations committees.

But if you look at the list of Dodd's recent, high-profile "accomplishments," it's not hard to imagine he was slipping in polls because of them, not despite them.

Over the past 18 months, he has been the primary author or co-author of legislation rewriting 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 and is in final negotiations with the House now.

That's quite a list for voters to take a look at and say, "Sheesh, he's at fault for all of that?" and promptly plan to vote Republican. According to the Hartford Courant, Dodd views the health-care vote as his "crowning achievemement," but his constituents have expressed that they don't feel the same.

Which is why the Democratic (and only) strategist quoted by the wires sounds so sanguine about the race, now:

[Dodd's] expected departure will shake up the state's political landscape. Among other things, it eases the way for a run by Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who told the Associated Press he plans to announce for the seat later today. Blumenthal has long expressed a desire to serve in the U.S. Senate but has said he would never challenge Dodd, whom he considers a friend.

Blumenthal is "uniquely suited to step into this campaign, win this race, and represent the people of Connecticut in Washington, D.C. as we continue to confront unprecedented challenges,'' said Roy Occhiogrosso, a Democratic consultant. "The Republicans thought they might steal this seat. Not anymore."

Dodd is expected to hold a news conference this afternoon, and Blumenthal will hold one shortly after, at 2:30 p.m.

The incumbent had been running behind his potential GOP challenger former Rep. Rob Simmons for months. Simmons will face a primary challenger in former WWE founder Linda McMahon. I had hoped Dodd's ego would lead him to the sense of "inevitability" that served Hillary Clinton so well, but it was not to be.