POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 1/6

Van Hollen Expects Just a Few More Retirements

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), chairman of the DCCC, told ABC News that there might be a “couple more” House Democratic retirements this year — but not anywhere near the 28 retirements that helped Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in 1994.

Said Van Hollen: “Let’s put this in perspective: As of right now this year we’re below the average number of retirements in the House on a two-year cycle. If you go back to 1994, you saw a high number — 28; we’re talking about 16, 17 retirements [on average in an election cycle]. We’re right now at 12 — maybe there’ll be a couple more.”

Van Hollen also flatly declared there would be no more party switchers.

Pomeroy Passes on Senate Race in North Dakota

Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) will not run for the U.S. Senate this year, CNN reports.

“Pomeroy will make the announcement this afternoon that he will not seek to succeed retiring Sen. Byron Dorgan, a fellow Democrat. The Senate Democratic leadership source added that national Democrats are eyeing former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp as a possible candidate to run for the seat.”

Meanwhile, MSNBC talk show host Ed Schultz said in an interview that “a state Democratic leader has reached out asking him to consider running for Dorgan’s seat.”

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Rahm for Mayor?

According to Sally Quinn, Rahm Emanuel has told people that his position as President Obama’s chief of staff is an 18-month job and that “he is considering a run for mayor of Chicago.”

“Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s current term is up in February 2011 — there is no term-limit on the office. Daley has had a difficult year both personally and professionally. His wife Maggie has been battling cancer, and his popularity has suffered from the botched privatization of the city’s parking meters and the loss of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.”

Blumenthal Holds Huge Leads in Senate Race

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Connecticut finds Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) leading all three Republicans in the U.S. Senate race by at least 30 points.

Blumenthal leads Rob Simmons (R), 59% to 28%, tops Linda McMahon (R), 60% to 28%, and beats Peter Schiff (R), 63% to 23%.

Analysis: “Blumenthal is unusually popular, especially in hyper partisan times when voters like few politicians. 59% have a favorable opinion of him to just 19% who see him negatively. It’s no surprise that he’s liked by 71% of Democrats and 60% of independents, but even Republicans view him favorably by a 37/35 margin. It doesn’t take a lot of hands to count the number of Democratic politicians with positive numbers among GOP voters these days… It would take an epic collapse for him not to be Connecticut’s next Senator.”

Santorum Makes Another Trip to South Carolina

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) second visit to South Carolina in as many months “has prompted rumors that he might be considering a 2012 bid,” CQ Politicsreports, “although most political observers believe he would be a longshot candidate at best.”

RNC Spending Spree Leaves Coffers Drained

A “spending spree” has left the RNC “with its worst election-year cash flow this decade,” according to The Hill.

Though the RNC had $22.8 million in cash at the start of last year, it has just $8.7 million in the bank heading into the midterm elections.

Said one RNC official: “It is very troubling, and the thing is, most people don’t understand this. But it is really troubling.”

Democrats Dropping Like Flies?

With news of four Democrats ending their campaigns yesterday, ABC News says that Democrats “are dropping like flies.”

But Steve Benen notes that Republican retirements, at least for now, still outnumber Democratic retirements.

“In the House, 14 GOP incumbents have decided not to seek re-election, while 10 Democratic incumbents have made the same announcement… In the Senate, six Republican incumbents have decided not to seek re-election, while two Democratic incumbents have made the same announcement.”

“Among governors, several incumbents in both parties are term-limited and prevented from running again, but only three Democrats who can seek re-election — Parkinson in Kansas, Doyle in Wisconsin, and Ritter in Colorado — have chosen not to. For Republicans, the number is four — Douglas in Vermont, Rell in Connecticut, Crist in Florida, and Pawlenty in Minnesota. (Update: the GOP number is five if we include Palin in Alaska.)”

Palin Emails Show Early Struggles

Alaska Dispatch has obtained emails from early in Sarah Palin’s term as governor that were sent from her personal Yahoo account.

“They paint a picture of a reform-minded governor wrestling with a reluctant bureaucracy… Palin at times appears flabbergasted that it seemed so hard to get the people she wanted into state jobs.”

Democrats Agree to Bypass Conference on Health Care Bill

As had been suggested, House and Senate leaders “have formally agreed to bypass a bicameral conference committee to merge two health care bills, and have opted to instead ‘ping-pong’ the Senate bill over to the House and back again,” The Hillreports.

The agreement was reached at a White House meeting last night with President Obama, Vice President Biden and the top two Democrats from each chamber.

In addition, there are indications that the White House now wants to schedule the State of the Union address for the first week in February so that there’s a chance the health care bill can be signed in advance.

King “Leaning Against” Senate Bid

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is doing his best Mario Cuomo-Hamlet impression by wavering once again on whether he’ll run for U.S. Senate from New York.

After saying he would not run against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) last summer, in recent days King said he was reconsidering his decision.

Now, this morning he tells George Stephanopoulos that he’s actually leaning against a bid because he thinks Republicans could retake the House of Representatives in this fall’s elections.

Pelosi Needles Obama on Campaign Promises

Politico notes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took a rare jab at President Obama. The Speaker was responding to a reporter who invoked an Obama campaign promise to argue that C-SPAN cameras should be allowed to cover the health care conference negotiations.

REPORTER: “President Obama was in favor of that, on the campaign trail.”

PELOSI: Really!! (Chuckles.) There were a number of things he was for on the campaign trail.”

Her comment and tone were not an accident, according to an aide who said Pelosi has been miffed at Obama’s clear preference for the Senate version of the health care bill and its harsh treatment of Cadillac health plans, which some Democrats consider a tax on the middle class.

No More Pulling the Lever

The New York Times reports “voting levers are officially history” with New York City’s selection of an Omaha company to replace all gear-and-lever machines, a step required to comply with the Help America Vote Act of 2002. “The city had been one of the last municipalities, in the last state, to refrain from picking an electronic system.”

Dodd Will Not Seek Re-Election

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), “a 30-year incumbent who has been struggling in public opinion polls for more than a year, plans to announce today he will not seek reelection,” the Hartford Courant reports.

But unlike Sen. Byron Dorgan’s (D-ND) decision yesterday to retire — which leaves his party defending an open seat in a Republican-leaning state — Dodd’s retirement is actually seen as giving Democrats a better shot at holding the seat in heavily Democratic Connecticut.

In fact, the AP reports Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) is wasting no time and will announce his candidacy for Dodd’s seat.

Dodd will formally make his announcement at a 12 pm news conference in front of his home. Blumenthal will hold a news conference at 2:30 pm.

Hoeven Will Run for Senate

With news that Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) is not running for re-election, Politco reports that North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven (R) “is letting his political allies know that he’s preparing to run for the seat.”

“Hoeven’s decision gives Republicans an excellent shot at winning back the Senate seat in the solidly Republican state.”

Ritter Dropping Out in Colorado

A source tells Political Wire that Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) is ending his re-election campaign. A fundraiser scheduled for tonight was canceled and all campaign staff was sent home in the middle of the day.

The decision does not appear to be fundraising related which has reportedly gone better than expected.

UpdateThe Hotline and The Fix confirm our report that Ritter is dropping his bid.

Update II: The Denver Post reports Ritter “is planning an 11 a.m. press conference Wednesday at which he is expected to announce that he will withdraw from the race for governor.”

Ford May Challenge Gillibrand

The New York Times reports former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-TN) “is weighing a bid to unseat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in this fall’s Democratic primary, according to three people who have spoken with him.”

Ford “who moved to New York three years ago, has told friends that he will decide whether to run in the next 45 days. The discussions between Mr. Ford and top Democratic donors reflect the dissatisfaction of some prominent party members with Ms. Gillibrand, who has yet to win over key constituencies, especially in New York City.”

The rumor first popped up two months ago, but the former Tennessee congressman appears to be serious.

Dorgan to Retire

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) “dropped a late-day bombshell, announcing he will retire when his term ends this year,” USA Today reports.

“Dorgan’s announcement represents an opportunity for Republicans: North Dakota is a Republican-leaning state, where President Obama got just 45% of the vote last year.”

Most analysts now expect Gov. John Hoeven (R) to run. If so, he will instantly become the favorite to win this seat.

Gingrich Heads to New Hampshire

The New Hampshire Union-Leader reports that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will make his first visit in over three years to the lead off primary state later this month. He will give the keynote address at a conservative grassroots communications conference in Manchester.

Said Gingrich: “I look forward to discussing with New Hampshire conservatives how to utilize new media to drive our message of safety, prosperity and freedom and spur people to demand real change from their government.”

A Closer Look at White House Visitors

The Sunlight Foundation released an interesting and useful mashup of White House visitors and their affiliations.

“For each White House visitor, you can look up if they have given campaign contributions on the national or state level, their profile on LittleSis.org and their Google and Wikipedia search results. This is a starting point for research. It is up to users to determine the actual identity of White House visitors.”

The White House has promised a monthly release of this information.

Romney Will Decide After Midterm Elections

Mitt Romney (R) said “that he’ll decide whether to run for president in 2012 sometime after this fall’s midterm elections,” reports The Hill.

Said Romney: “It’s always a possibility, and you keep the options open, but, you concentrate on the task ahead, for me that’s trying to get some good people elected in 2010. And, I know once that’s done the next item on the agenda is what’s 2012 going to be; and, Ann and I will give that some thought and make the decision then.

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