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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The “Heading for the Exits” Narrative

Over the last 24 hours, word has been leaking out of four separate Democratic candidates for statewide office around the country deciding to retire from office or otherwise fold campaigns. They are Sens. Chris Dodd of CT and Byron Dorgan of ND, along with Gov. Bill Ritter of CO (up for re-election this year) and Lt. Gov. Don Cherry of MI (running for governor this year).
Republicans are naturally spinning these unrelated developments as part of a wave of discouraged Democrats getting out of campaigns in anticipation of a big pro-GOP November. That’s not surprising. But it is annoying that mainstream political media are so avidly buying this spin. Politico‘s banner headline this morning is: “Top Democrats head for the exits.”
The irony is that these changes of heart could actually improve overall Democratic prospects in November. Dodd was in deep political trouble, and his likely replacement as Democratic nominee, CT Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, will be favored to win. Cherry’s gubernatorial campaign was struggling to raise money, and his withdrawal could open the door to any number of better-positioned Democratic candidates. And in CO, Ritter’s retirement could well draw former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff out of a contentious primary challenge to Sen. Michael Bennet; if that doesn’t happen, highly popular Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper might run, and there’s even been some talk that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar would like to be governor. Any of these candidates would be considered stronger than Ritter.
Dorgan’s retirement is definitely a blow to Democrats. But he, too, was badly trailing Gov. John Hoeven in the polls, and if Rep. Earl Pomeroy decides to take the plunge, his prospects might be as good as Dorgan’s.
In terms of handicapping the overall contest for control of the U.S. Senate, it’s important to remember that not two but six Republicans have already announced retirements (in OH, FL, MO, KY, NH and KS). I don’t recall any “Top Republicans head for the exits” headlines about them.

2 comments on “The “Heading for the Exits” Narrative

  1. Joe Corso on

    P.S. it’s actually not hard to fix the problem that has made it hard to comment for the past several weeks. Just follow the instructions in the noteworthy box at the top of the TDS home page

  2. Joe Corso on

    there is clearly a “Dems are in trouble” narrative that the MSM is latching onto because it’s easier to write than the more mixed reality. It fits together with the “Dems are deeply divided” narrative that mainstream journalists love because it is easy to construct (just package 2 or 3 “he said, she said” quotes and your done)
    Dems need to start explicitly pushing back on these two connected narratives. Yes 2010 will be tough and yes there are disagreements within the democratic coalition – but both are normal and neither fatal.


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