TPM News

Republicans have put Democrats on the defensive in the Congressional midterm elections, but are facing their own challenges from conservatives across the country more frequently identifying with the tea party movement.

The trend started last fall when national momentum built behind conservative candidate Doug Hoffman in New York's 23rd Congressional district, pushing the party-chosen Republican Dede Scozzafava out of the race.

Now, Democratic sources tell us, tea party challengers have sprung up across the country. In many cases they are specifically saying they want to fight against the "establishment" of the National Republican Congressional Committee-backed candidates and incumbents who are too comfortable with the Washington way.

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Ned Lamont released the following statement today regarding the retirement of Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT). Lamont, who won the Democratic Party's nomination for Senate in 2006, said he will continue to explore a run for Governor in 2010. Here's the full text:

"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."

Democrats are grumbling over headlines portraying their party as "dropping like flies" given the flood of recent retirements and say the press is ignoring there actually are more Republicans opting against reelection.

It's especially prominent in the House, where campaign types correctly say their retirements are fewer than Republicans. And they still are far fewer than the scenario in 1994, when massive retirements helped the GOP win back the House.

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RNC Chairman Michael Steele told Fox News that the Republican party will try to move toward the further right tea-party movement.

"The tea party movement is a revelatory moment for us," he said on Fox and Friends this morning. "It really puts in stark relief where the American people are, how they feel and what they feel. And I think it's important for our party to appreciate and understand this so that we can move toward this, embrace it and then move into the future."

Watch:

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With Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) retiring, Republicans already have a top-tier candidate lined up to enter the race soon: Gov. John Hoeven, who was elected to a third term in 2008 with 74% of the vote.

State GOP chairman Gary Emineth told Politico: "I expect Gov. Hoeven to get in, and he's going to work through personal issues relating to his family, but I would be shocked if he's not in the Senate race soon."

North Dakota GOP political director Adam Jones explained to me that the family issues referred to here were simply a matter of Hoeven talking to his family about the prospect of a Senate run and a move to Washington. "First and foremost, the governor is a father and husband before he's a public servant," said Jones. "First he has to decide what's good for his family."

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High-flying Fort Lauderdale attorney Scott Rothstein will plead guilty to charges arising from his alleged $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme in late January, the AP is reporting.

Rothstein, who had in early December plead not guilty, hasn't exactly been lying low since his alleged scheme fell apart last November. A local newspaper got footage of Rothstein enjoying a lunchtime martini at the Capital Grille in Fort Lauderdale in mid-November.

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