Political Notebook

Dorgan - and maybe Dodd - won’t run

The White House said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is using Michelle Obama’s image without her permission in a new ad campaign. It also features Carrie Underwood (from left), Oprah Winfrey, and Tyra Banks. The White House said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is using Michelle Obama’s image without her permission in a new ad campaign. It also features Carrie Underwood (from left), Oprah Winfrey, and Tyra Banks. (Peta via Associated Press)
January 6, 2010

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WASHINGTON - Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, a leading Democrat whose political star fell along with the nation’s economy, is expected to announce today that he has decided against running for reelection this November, sources briefed on the decision told The Washington Post. Dodd, in his fifth term, chairs the Senate Banking Committee.

His retirement would be the second such announcement by a Senate Democrat in 24 hours; North Dakota’s Byron Dorgan said yesterday that he would not run this fall. The announcements dealt another blow to Democrats already struggling to protect their Senate majority.

Dorgan, a moderate who was first elected to the Senate in 1992 after serving a dozen years in the House, said he reached the decision after discussing his future with family over the holidays. Dorgan, 67, said he “began to wrestle with the question of whether making a commitment to serve in the Senate seven more years was the right thing to do.’’

Dorgan’s decision stunned members of his party, who control the Senate but face spirited challenges from Republicans in several states. Democrats were confident heading into the new year that Dorgan would run for reelection even as rumors intensified that Republican Governor John Hoeven would challenge him in November.

Early polling showed Dorgan trailing Hoeven in a hypothetical contest, and Democrats expected a competitive race if the matchup materialized. Democrats insist they will field a strong candidate to run in Dorgan’s place, and recruitment was underway with Representative Earl Pomeroy’s name emerging.

Dorgan’s announcement could complicate efforts by Democrats to maintain their advantage in the Senate, where they hold an effective 60-40 majority, including two independents who align themselves with Democrats. That is just enough to break Republican filibusters if the Democrats and independents stick together.

Many Democratic incumbents could face challenges amid high unemployment rates and concerns about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At least three, including majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada, are in serious trouble.

Chairman says Republicans ‘screwed up’ over the years
WASHINGTON - GOP chairman Michael Steele believes Republicans have “screwed up’’ for the most part in the years since Ronald Reagan was president. And, he adds in an interview on the heels of his new book’s release, Republicans won’t win back the House in fall elections and might not be ready to lead even if they do.

That forecast of failure sparked a pushback yesterday at the National Republican Congressional Committee and delight at its counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Asked Monday by talk-show host Sean Hannity if Republicans can regain the House in November, Steele said, “Not this year.’’

NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said that recapturing the majority remains a GOP goal, while the DCCC pointed to Steele’s comments as further evidence of a civil war within the GOP and party disarray.

Steele’s new book, “Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda,’’ released Monday by Regnery Publishing, offers his blueprint for the party’s resurgence. The first step for Republicans, he says, is admitting that they have compromised their principles in the past decade.

Steele focuses much of the book on familiar GOP denunciations of Obama’s policies (“a roadmap to failure’’), the $787 billion stimulus bill (“a reckless, wasteful, pork-laden spending spree’’), liberal views on man-made global warming (“A threat to life on Earth? Depends on whom you ask’’), and other issues.

To regain the public confidence, Steele says the GOP should, among other things, expose the “reign of error’’ inherent in liberal policies, contrast conservative and liberal principles, and highlight the damage caused by Obama’s policies while explaining conservative solutions. More surprising, the GOP chairman criticizes President George H.W. Bush for raising taxes two years after Reagan left office.

White House gate-crasher is D.C. event planner
WASHINGTON - The third gate-crasher at November’s White House state dinner turns out to be a local event planner who came in with members of the Indian delegation.

Carlos Allen, who runs an event business called Hush Galleria in the nation’s capital, has met with the Secret Service several times about the incident, said Allen’s lawyer.

The Secret Service did not learn of a third uninvited guest until mid-December, two weeks after a Dec. 3 House hearing about the breach, according to a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because this is an ongoing investigation. Allen’s lawyer said his client is cooperating.