Evan Bayh, a two term Democratic Senator from Indiana, recently announced that he will not be seeking reelection in 2010. Bayh is the 3rd Democratic Senator in the last few months who has decided not to run this coming fall. Bayh’s retirement, as well as the retirements of his fellow Democratic Senators Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Bryon Dorgan of North Dakota, has vast and far-reaching implications, and most of this turmoil stems from general animosity toward the Democratic Party.
Until his decision to retire, Evan Bayh held a slight advantage over his potential Republican challengers for the next election. His incumbency and cash advantage, as well as a lead in the polls of a few percentage points, would have made for a very close and interesting race. Because of Bayh’s retirement, the open Indiana Senate seat is now leaning Republican. Bayh’s retirement may quite well cost the Democrats a Senate seat, assuming current animosity levels remain more or less constant until November.
Unlike Bayh, Dorgan did not officially declare that he will not seek reelection until he was behind Republican Governor John Hoeven in a hypothetical matchup, even though he was still ahead of several other Republicans. Hoeven officially entered the race after Dorgan retired, and he now leads two Democratic contenders by more than 35 percentage points in the polls. Even if he had decided to run again, Dorgan would have most likely lost because Hoeven’s strong performance as Governor, which has earned him an approval rating of 80% of people approve of. In any case, Dorgan’s seat is now considered to be a guaranteed Republican pickup.
Chris Dodd’s retirement was solely based on the fact that he reelection chances were going from bad to worse. His position as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee earned him a bad reputation in the public eye during the recent financial crisis. He has consistently trailed all his potential Republican challengers in the polls, despite having the advantages of incumbency and superior funding. His retirement has actually increased Democrats’ odds of protecting against further Republican gains. The state’s Attorney General, Democrat Richard Blumenthal, has a sizable lead in the polls, bring Connecticut from “leaning Republican” to “safe Democratic.”
Each of the three Democratic retirements was based on different reasons, but the current animosity toward the incumbent party played a role in all three. Many Americans from both parties feel that Majority Leader Harry Reid should retire. If Reid chooses to do so, Democrats feel that their chances in Nevada will rise against the relatively unknown Republican candidates whom Reid currently trails, similar to the situation in Connecticut. We can only guess what will happen if more Democrats decide to retire in the upcoming months. Will strong candidates like Bayh retire and improve Republican chances to retake the Senate? Or will unpopular candidates like Dodd reite and give Democrats new life? Only time will tell.