Some of the nation’s top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today’s question:

Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) will not seek reelection. What does this news mean for the 2010 election? How will this impact President Barack Obama’s agenda?

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said:

The window is closing on the Democrats’ ability to unilaterally do dramatic damage to the country.

They will not have 60 votes in the Senate after the November 2010 election.  Dorgan was a strong incumbent who has won repeatedly in a red state-despite voting to the Left of Barney Frank.  His leaving makes it almost certain that an R will take this seat in 2010 and that Conrad will follow him out the door, vertically or horizontally, in 2012 as Conrad will not have the cover of his fellow Senator casting identical votes on each issue.  From 2011 on, Conrad’s votes for the labor union/trial lawyer/big city agenda will contrast with those of Hoeven. So there will be a Republican Senator contrasted with a Democrat Senator.  A moderate conservative contrasted with a liberal democrat.  Two years of casting identifiably left wing votes will finish Conrad.

Dodd would have stayed if Obama and the Democrats were popular enough to muscle him back into office.  Dodd left because the current was against the Democrats and Obama is no longer the powerful popular figure that can sweep in and save a failing campaign.

Michelle D. Bernard, president & CEO of the Independent Women’s Forum, said:

Sinking poll numbers and congressional approval ratings should have led the Democratic leadership to conclude that they were pursuing an agenda that most of America rejects. But after months of ignoring these warning signs, some politicians are deciding they’d rather throw in the towel than face an angry electorate. While the loss of Senator Dodd may actually improve Democrats’ electoral prospects, the rash of retirements is just more evidence that many Democrats are out of touch with America and face potentially devastating losses in November. They would be wise to abandon the worst of their big government agenda and start governing from the center–after all, that’s why voters elected them in the first place.

Bernie Quigley, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

Dodd was polled to lose against any contender including libertarian Peter Schiff. He recognizied that the sea has changed even here in tradition-bound New England. I think the Obama admin has orchestrated the ramming through of astonishing amounts of deficit-based changes in a hurry knowing that the country would react against them, but thinking that it would be too late to do anything about it. Wrong. This is poor spirited. The results will be historic and and possibly catastrophic. It simply will not work in a country as alive as ours; 1840s Russia yes, 1920s China yes – those were dead realms. What these programs have done here is awakened the heartland. The states will defend against them and have now found the antidote: Jefferson and the 10th Amendment. These Dems are getting out of Dodge while the getting is good.

Brad Delong, professor of Economics at UC Berkley, said:


So far, as I understand it, we have (i) three Democratic governors who could seek reelection have decided not to, while four Republican governors who could seek reelection have decided not to; (ii) 12 Democratic House members and 13 Republican House members who have decided to retire; and if I recall correctly (iii) six Republican Senate members and two Democratic ones who have decided to retire.

So it looks as though the retirement tide is still running against the Republicans, at least in the Senate…

Ron Walters, professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, said:

Chris Dodd was a vital cog in President Obama’s legislative team and it will undoubtedly throw more pressure on the leadership of Harry Reid to get things through.  However, this may also be a perfect tiiming for an exit by Dodd, having capped a 36 year career with a monumental victory that comes about in several generations. So, Dodd may not be missed as Obama’s priorities shift to other areas of the Congress. The main issue then becomes that since Dodd was running behind in the state polls whether he will be replaced by another Democrat and in view of Dorgan’s decision to retire, whether Democrats will retain the 60 votes necessary to affect cloture. That will also be the most serious result.

Hal Lewis, professor of Physics at UC Santa Barbara, said:

As a good friend keeps reminding me, you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.

A.B. Stoddard, Associate Editor of The Hill, said:

Retirements by senior Democrats do not come as a surprise, and there could be more. Looking down the barrel of the 2010 midterm elections the party is on the defensive this year in a way Democrats never imagined: on energy reform, the stimulus, on their signature issue of health care with support for reform dropping by the month, on the economy and joblessness and on the issue of terror and the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay. This year will be a kick-the-bums-out year for sure.
Democrats could very well keep the seat of Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), since he had personal liabilities and the new Democratic candidate has won statewide and is in a strong political position there. Democrats are likely to lose the seat of Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), however, particularly if the GOP governor makes a run for it.

Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, said:

Many Democrats thought that healthcare would be a winning issue in 2010. But the bill is highly unpopular. As Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie blogs regarding Dodd’s decision: “The healthcare bounce was showing no signs of making an appearance. The imminent passage of the behemoth bill is hardening, not easing, the public’s hostility to incumbents.”

Obama ran on a platform of openness and moderation, but is ducking his promises on openness while pushing an agenda far more radical than his campaign suggested. In response, Americans have been pulling away, and it’s not surprising that members of Congress are choosing to get out rather than face an angry public next fall.

Justin Raimondo, editorial director of, said:

When you hear that locomotive coming down the tracks, it’s best to get out of the way.

Dodd’s collusion with the real estate scamsters and AIG pretty much doomed his reelection chances, and so it made sense – financially – for him to get out.

But more than Dodd’s corruption is involved here: an anti-incumbent, anti-bailout, populist wave is rising, and has been since Obama’s election, and it won’t crest for years. That wave will crush BOTH parties, unless they figure out a way to either surf it, or get out of the way.

Alan Abramowitz, professor of political science at Emory University, said:

Dorgan’s retirement makes it a little more likely that Republicans will pick up the North Dakota seat, but he would have probably faced a tough race if he had run. Dodd’s retirement makes it more likely that Democrats will keep the Connecticut seat since the likely Democratic nominee, Connecticut AG Richard Blumenthal, is much more popular than Dodd. Neither will have any impact on Obama’s agenda for the rest of the year. If anything, Dorgan may feel freer to support Obama’s policies.

Richard S. Lindzen, atmospheric physicist and professor at MIT, said:

It might not mean much. They might be stepping aside in order to allow the Democrats to run stronger candidates. To be sure, this indicates an above-normal degree of nervousness. However, the Massachusetts election on Jan. 19 to choose a replacement for Ted Kennedy could be more important. In the still unlikely case that the Republican, Brown, wins, that could well be a game-changer. The polls show him catching up with the fairly unattractive Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley.

Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote, said:

In narrow, direct partisan terms, not all retirements are the same. Sen. Dodd’s retirement gives Connecticut Democrats a better chance to keep his seat. Sen. Dorgan’s retirement is a likely boon for Republicans in North Dakota.

With a net loss of seats in the Senate likely and potential big losses in the House, Obama and congressional Democrats must weigh advancing issues for which they may need their current strong Democratic majorities to win with political calculation about avoiding potentially dangerous votes for members facing hard reelection battles. There are political arguments both ways, but a lot of their base does not want policy decisions to be driven entirely by short-term partisan calculations.

Dick Morris, columnist and Pundits Blog contributor, said:

It will trigger a wave of Democratic dropouts and defections and party switches. It marks the beginning of the end of his congressional ascendancy.

John F. McManus, president of The John Birch Society, said:

I understand that there are more GOP senators who are not running for reelection than the two Democrats who just announced retirement. The decisions of Dodd and Dorgan should not have GOP leaders jumping for joy prematurely. A Democrat will likely succeed Dodd in Connecticut and it looks like a Republican will succeed Dorgan in North Dakota. Not a big shift in power there. What happens with the seats currently held by retiring GOP senators should be factored into thoughts about what will become of President Obama’s agenda.
It would be wonderful for the nation if leading Republicans were markedly different from leading Democrats. The notion that automatically identifies Republicans as believable conservatives/constitutionalists is not merited. The country needs people who believe in LESS government, not more efficient, or more compassionate, or more something else kind of government. How much LESS? Read and abide by the U.S. Constitution for an extremely important answer to this extremely important question.