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 --Â 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."