- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 6, 2010

UPDATED:

WASHINGTON — Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd, a five-term Democrat whose political stock began falling after the financial meltdown and his failed 2008 presidential bid, has decided not to seek re-election in November, Democratic officials told Associated Press early Wednesday.

Dodd was expected to make an announcement Wednesday. The officials who disclosed his plans would speak only on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement. The Washington Post first reported Dodd’s decision.

Word of his retirement comes hours after North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan announced he will not seek re-election.

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Dodd, 66, is chairman of Senate Banking Committee, which was at the center of efforts to deal with the economic meltdown. And he has played a prominent role in the debate over overhauling health care, taking over for his friend Ted Kennedy during his illness and then after his death.

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 the embattled Dodd stepping aside, Democrats can now try to recruit a more popular candidate to run in 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.

Blumenthal told the Associated Press that he will be announcing his candidacy Wednesday afternoon. WTNH-TV first reported Blumenthal’s plans.

Blumenthal, 63, has been attorney general since 1990, but said he has had his eye on the Senate for years.

He said serving in the Senate has been a “longtime public service goal” and that he would be proud and honored to have the opportunity to serve the people of Connecticut in the Congress.

“Republicans thought they might steal this seat, but now they should probably look elsewhere,” said Roy Occhiogrosso, a veteran Democratic strategist in Connecticut and a Dodd supporter. “This is Dick Blumenthal’s race. People in Connecticut know who he is. They know the work he’s done. They know he can go to Washington and continue the same kind of work.”

Dodd, who has taken heat for a discounted VIP mortgage loan he got from a subprime lender, has been consistently behind potential GOP challenger Rob Simmons in Connecticut polls. Simmons, a former House member, has his own challenger in World Wrestling Entertainment co-founder Linda McMahon, who is also seeking the Republican nomination for Dodd’s seat.

As recently as Monday, Dodd brushed aside questions about stepping aside for another Democratic candidate, and insisted he was in the race for good. He acknowledged that some of his fellow Democrats were “antsy” with his low poll numbers, but said things can change quickly in politics.

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