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The big news this morning is that Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) is expected to announce at noon today that he is retiring from the Senate. While usually a retirement by an incumbent is bad news for a party, in this case Dodd's retirement almost certainly improves Democratic chances for holding the seat with a stronger candidate.

Connecticut is a Democratic-leaning state, which Barack Obama carried with 61% of the vote in 2008, but Dodd himself had consistently been running badly in the polls against his Republican challengers, largely as a result of the controversial mortgage he received from Countrywide Financial.

A Quinnpiac poll from this past November put Dodd's approval rating at only 40%, with 54% disapproval, compared to a 58%-35% rating for Obama. Dodd also trailed the two main GOP candidates, former Rep. Rob Simmons and former Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon.

The other key factor here is that state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has already announced that he will run, and will officially kick off the campaign with a press conference at 2:30 p.m. ET. Blumenthal was first elected in 1990, and has been easily re-elected ever since. There not been any publicly released polling on the prospect of Blumenthal for Senate -- though as it turns out, Public Policy Polling (D) will be coming out with just such a thing later today, and we'll be sure to pick it up. But here's a key number on Blumenthal: The same round of Quinnipiac polling that gave Dodd such bad numbers in November also showed Blumenthal with an approval rating of 78%-13%.

Late Update: Ned Lamont, the 2006 Democratic nominee for Senate against Joe Lieberman, who is currently exploring a campaign for governor, released this statement:

"For three decades, Chris has been Connecticut's best friend, a powerful defender of the constitution and a tireless advocate for families and children. Chris, Jackie and their family deserve a short break, but I'm sure that there are many more chapters in Chris' life of public service."

"This announcement does not change my own plans. I will continue to explore a run for Governor because I believe the stakes for Connecticut are too high and that we need innovative, entrepreneurial leadership to kickstart our economy, create new jobs, and honestly balance our budget."

Nick Ayers, the executive director of the Republican Governors Association, tweeted a series of jokes this morning about White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel trying to get certain Democratic governors to retire.

Rahm: "Gov Paterson you should accept the ambassadorship to New Zealand. Its beautiful there. Have you not seen it?...oh, right, sorry."


New York Gov. David Paterson is legally blind.

(via Ben Smith)

Late update: Ayers has apologized and deleted the tweet.

So what to make of yesterday's resignation by Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer, who has been a close ally of Gov. Charlie Crist? Does this mean that Crist has been heavily damaged in his Senate primary against the more conservative former state House Speaker Marco Rubio? Interestingly, Republican sources we spoke to said this wasn't actually true -- that in some ways it could be good news for Crist, simply by virtue of having ended an ongoing controversy.

One county chair said that the Greer resignation was actually bad news for Rubio, who's enjoyed considerable success running as an outsider candidate. "I've heard from some Rubio supporters who are disappointed to see Greer go," the chair said. "It's harder for him to run as an outsider now." Another chair said that the resignation helps Rubio "a little," but could help Crist more.

"Maybe it's a benefit [for Crist]," Palm Beach County chair Sid Dinerstien said. "The Governor knew this was going to happen eventually, and now he can put it behind him."

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January 3, 2010: The failed Christmas Day bomb attempt thrust terrorism into the national spotlight. Follow the latest news and debates at the TPM Terror Wire. Airports across the globe have increased security measures and restrictions. Since Christmas, there have been several scares, including what appeared to be anthrax attacks in two states, a bomb scare in California, and an airport evacuation in Minnesota.



All this has translated to a tremendously trying holiday season for travelers. Above, passengers wait for a security check at Newark International Airport in New Jersey. The airport was shut down for more than an hour after a man accidentally walked into a secure area.

Newscom/Ptsphotoshot/Shen Hong




December 29, 2010: TSA officers check boarding passes at Ronald Reagan National Airport.

Newscom/UPI/Alexis C. Glenn




January 3, 2010: The crowds at the Newark Airport during the Sunday delays.

Newscom/Zumawire/Shen Hong




December 31, 2009: A passenger bound for Washington, D.C., is searched by security at the Roissy airport outside Paris.



On January 3rd, the U.S. announced intensified screenings for travelers from 14 nations. Nigerian leaders were not particularly happy with their country's inclusion on the list. The nation's Foreign Affairs Minister told the AP: "Listing Nigeria on the second tier of countries for security measures in the U.S. is an unacceptable New Year's gift."

Newscom/Sipaphotos




The aftermath of the foiled terror attempt has increased the possibility of using full body-scanning technology. Several countries are considering using techniques, such as the millimeter wave screening (top) and X-ray backscatter (below).

Great Britain may have one of the more difficult obstacles to get over with full-body scanning. The proposed technology, as The Guardian reports, may violate the country's child pornography laws.

tsa.gov




January 3, 2010: Passengers wait inside the Newark International Airport.

Newsom/Zumawire/Shen Hong




January 4, 2010: Even without terror scares, airports had a difficult few weeks. A worker repairs electronic screens at Reagan National Airport after an hour-long power outage.

Newscom/Ptsphoto/Zhang Jun




January 2, 2010: A long line forms at an airport in Costa del Sol, Spain.

Newscom




December 31, 2009: Security officers keep a watchful eye on international passengers in France.

Newscom/Sipaphotos




December 28, 2009: German police officers monitor an airport terminal in Frankfurt.

Newscom/Uwe Anspach

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) issued a brief statement on news Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) will retire instead of seek reelection.

"Byron Dorgan is a friend and has been a strong voice for North Dakotans during his 30 years of service in Congress. I respect his decision to pursue other interests and wish him and his family the best in the future."

President Obama issued a statement today reacting to the surprise retirement announcement from Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND).

"Senator Dorgan should be very proud of his more than 30 years of devoted service in the United States Congress and to the people of North Dakota. From fighting for our energy future to standing with North Dakota's families through difficult economic times, Senator Dorgan has been a trusted leader for the people of his state. He has also been a champion for our family farmers and a powerful voice for Indian Country - particularly through his recent work to improve Indian health care services. Michelle and I extend our gratitude for his service to our nation and our very best wishes for the future for him and his family."

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) won't seek a second term, retiring from the key swing state as Democrats were hit earlier today with the surprise retirement of Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND).

The Washington Post reports tonight that Ritter, elected in 2006, is suddenly backing down from his reelection bid.

According to the Post, Democratic sources briefed on Ritter's decision cite a tough race for reelection against former Rep. Scott McInnis (R).

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele issued the following statement on the retirement announcement of Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND):

"Today's announcement by Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota that he will not seek reelection in 2010 highlights just how vulnerable both Senate and House Democrats have become since deciding to walk in lockstep with President Obama's government-run policies. For nearly a year Congressional Democrats have been turning a deaf ear to the concerns of the American people and as the elections of 2010 approach, many of these same Democrats are deciding to simply leave office instead of risking certain defeat. While Senator Dorgan might be the first Democrat to announce his retirement this year, I predict he will not be the last as more and more Americans start moving away from the Democrat Party's liberal agenda and towards the Republican Party's core principles of less government, lower taxes, and greater personal responsibility."

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) has released an official statement regarding the breaking news that his North Dakota colleague Byron Dorgan will retire at the end of 2010.

"Nationally he has been a foremost advocate for fair trade, fiscal responsibility, and economic growth," Conrad says. "If his warnings had been heeded, the economic downturn might well have been averted. Over and over, he has been proven right on economic policy, trade policy and so much more. He is the best colleague a person could ever have and an even better friend."

You can read the entire statement below the fold.

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The National Republican Senatorial Committee is the first out with a reaction to the news Sen. Byron Dorgan is retiring and won't seek reelection in 2010, calling the surprise announcement a prime opportunity for the GOP to pick up a Democratic seat. "North Dakota was always going to be a competitive seat for the Democrats to defend, and Senator Dorgan's retirement now provides us with another excellent pick-up opportunity for Republicans in 2010," said NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh.

Walsh said the development "is indicative of the difficult environment and slumping approval ratings that Democrats face as a result of their out of control tax-and-spend agenda in Washington."

"We fully intend to capitalize on this opportunity by continuing to recruit strong candidates who can win these seats in November," he said.

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