The three senators who have announced their 2012 retirements thus far appeared Sunday on This Week. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) both maintained that they think they could have won re-election — and the other, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), only commented on why his state has turned against the status quo in Washington.
All in all, these reactions seemed to coincide with the chances that these same individual Senators’ seats would stay with their current party or caucus.
Following Conrad’s retirement, the Cook Report changed the rating of this race from “Likely Democratic” to “Toss Up.” Before Lieberman announced his retirement, Cook had the race as only “Leans Democratic,” due in part to the possibility that a three-way race could split the Dem vote and throw the seat to the Republicans — but it is now the much safer “Likely Democratic.” And Hutchison’s seat has seen no change — it was “Likely Republican” before she announced her retirement, and it is “Likely Republican” now.[TPM SLIDESHOW: Goodbye, Joe: Lieberman Announces He’ll Retire In 2012]
The whole episode can be viewed here. The key exchange occurs at about the 9:20 mark.
“You can always find a reason to continue, you know? But I think you’ve got to know when it’s time to — to move on,” said Lieberman, who famously lost his Democratic primary in 2006, won re-election as an independent, and has had a tempestuous relationship with Democrats ever since.
“I was not — I believed I would have won re-election. Obviously, it would have been a tough campaign. But, you know, as I said, so what else is new? I’ve run — almost all my campaigns have been tough. That’s not the reason why I didn’t run. I didn’t run because I want to try something different.”
Hutchison has also had a tough past few years. In 2010, she challenged incumbent Gov. Rick Perry in the Republican primary, only to lose in a landslide when Perry painted her as a Washington insider. There was much talk that she could face a primary challenge, backed by the Tea Party-style right.
“I think that, if I had run, I would have won. It would have been a tough race, for sure, but I thing I would have won, because I think my record is good, and it is to be effective and get things done,” Hutchison said.
“But I do think there is such a strong feeling that America has not been going in the right direction, and I think people are looking for a change. That’s not why I didn’t run; it was a personal decision for me. I commute every week. I have two young children. And the time was right for me.”
But by contrast, check out this exchange between Conrad and Christiane Amanpour. Conrad was not asked directly about whether he would have won — but he did have a lot to say about the recent Democratic losses in North Dakota, where Republicans picked up the open Senate seat and defeated an incumbent Dem Congressman:
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you — before we were talking about a sense of contentment that you all three felt, so let’s get beyond that and I want to ask you, Senator Conrad, you know, in your state, Democrats in Congress are becoming an endangered species. They may, in fact, become extinct in the next round of elections. What is it about the Democratic message that seems not to be selling or not to be being bought in the heartland?
CONRAD: You know, it’s very interesting. What I hear all across my state are three words: Enough is enough. When you put together TARP, of course, which was done under the Bush administration, but it sort of all runs into the same reaction by people, and you add stimulus, and the auto bailout, and the health care bill, it just struck people that there was too much coming from the federal government, and so people wanted to make a change.