The Dam Breaks

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Yesterday was so crowded with leading Democrats announcing their retirements that reporters could hardly keep up.

First, Michigan Lt. Governor John Cherry, the frontrunner to his party’s nomination for governor, dropped out. Then Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, who had won three landslide elections, pulled the plug. He was followed by Colorado Governor Bill Ritter. The day culminated with leaked word that Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, embroiled in the Countrywide Financial scandal as chairman of the Banking Committee, would be ending his 30-year Senate career.

All of the above Democrats were looking at private poll numbers that indicated tough re-election fights this year. “Remember the old Tareyton cigarette slogan ‘I’d rather fight than switch?'” said GOP strategist Alex Castellanos. “We will probably see other retirements as Democrats decide they would rather retire than fight.”

While the spate of retirements highlights just how challenging an election picture Democrats face, their chances of retaining some offices may have been improved by yesterday’s events. In Connecticut, Democrats will likely run the state’s 64-year-old attorney general, Richard Blumenthal. While as liberal as Mr. Dodd, Mr. Blumenthal lacks the incumbent’s ethical baggage. Republicans are still competitive for the race, but they much preferred Mr. Dodd as a punching bag. In Colorado, Democrats have several popular figures whom they could run for governor, including Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

‘John Fund is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal’

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