Monica already gathered some quick reaction to Sen. Chris Dodd's retirement, but I have to say that the analysts, like Marc Ambinder, who are grouping Dodd's announcement with the retirement of Sen. Byron Dorgan just aren't thinking straight. Or rather, they're buying into the importance of a narrative and making that constructed view more important than real-world results. Let's look to the cash value, as William James might say.
Dorgan is a problem for Dems because they go from a close race to a lost seat. It's the exact opposite in Connecticut: They go from a tough, expensive race -- the party committees always put the money on the line for a senior member, no matter how much trouble they are in (see Murtha, John) -- to one that should be a pretty easy win for Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, thus freeing up more national resources for other races. Dodd has been urged toward the door for months! Frankly, anytime a party loses someone who can be featured in an anecdote like this, they should be OK with it:
That Dodd led the attacks on A.I.G. when what came to be called the retention bonuses were revealed infuriates my A.I.G. friend. He says that his boss asked everyone at A.I.G. Financial Products “to contribute the maximum to Dodd, because he was so important in Washington in terms of regulating the products we sell.” My friend went on to say: “Before he attacked us, Dodd was in our office” — in Wilton, Conn. — “giving a speech telling us how great we were. And our checks were in envelopes stacked up right there.”
Federal Election Commission filings show 31 maximum $2,100 contributions to Dodd during the last quarter of 2006 from employees of A.I.G. Financial Products. My friend’s former boss, A.I.G. Financial Products’ head, Joseph Cassano, who is listed as giving $2,100, did not return calls to his home, nor did his lawyer return calls seeking comment.
Asked about the event, and about checks stacked on a table, Dodd said: “Yes, it happened. I remember having a fund-raiser there. . . . I can’t finance my own campaigns. I have to raise money,” he added. “But what does this guy think? That if they give me money I have to do what they want me to do? That tells you something about them.”
This isn't to diminish Dodd's long career as a yeoman for liberal causes in the Senate or the surprisingly good work he has done (and hopefully will do) on financial regulatory reform. I hope he lands on his feet. But sometimes, when it's time to go, it's time to go. Others may talk of a "psychological" victory for Republicans, but progressives would rather an electoral victory, and that's what this switch likely means.
Oh, and on the retirement of Colorado's Democratic governor, Bill Ritter? That could end with no primary for Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet if former State House Speaker Andrew Romanoff makes a bid for the governor's manse, which would make life easier for the slightly embattled Bennet's general election chances. I'm not ready to call that a disaster for Democrats yet, either.
-- Tim Fernholz
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