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Posted at 4:15 PM ET, 01/18/2011

The tale of two retirements

By Jennifer Rubin

Recently, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R.-Tex.) announced her retirement. Today, Chris Cillizza reported that Sen. Kent Conrad (D.-N.D.) will be hanging it up.

The reaction to each is interesting and quite different. In Texas, the Democratic polling outfit Public Policy Polling tells us: "A look at 12 different possible head-to-head match ups for next year's Texas Senate race shows the same outcome in every single one: a double digit lead for the Republican. This is going to be an extremely difficult seat for Democrats to pick up."

Meanwhile, Republicans are pumped up about a potential pick-up in North Dakota. In 2010 the Republicans won the seat after Sen. Byron Dorgan retired. The winning candidate got over 76 percent of the vote. The National Republican Senatorial Committee put out this release:

"In the wake of Senator Hoeven's overwhelming victory last year, Senate Republicans fully expected North Dakota to be a major battleground in 2012, but Senator Conrad's retirement dramatically reshapes this race in the Republicans' favor.

"Like millions of voters across the country, North Dakotans sent a strong message in November that they are tired of the massive spending and growing debt that we have been seeing from Washington. That is why the Democrats' big government agenda will be a major impediment to any Democrat challenger who may now step forward in this race.

"We believe this race represents one of the strongest pickup opportunities for Senate Republicans this cycle and will invest whatever resources are necessary to win next year."

Republicans have a fairly deep bench in North Dakota. There is Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley and state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, not to mention the at-large congressman elected in 2010, Rep. Rick Berg. By contrast, the Democrats are talking about running former Rep. Earl Pomeroy, who lost to Berg by ten points.

In 2010 Democratic retirements opened up some possibilities for Republicans. We will see if there are more Democrats wishing to retire on their own terms rather face the voters in 2012. But frankly, sure-to-run Democrats like Missouri's Claire McCaskill and Florida's Bill Nelson will face tough re-election fights, especially if a strong GOP presidential candidate is at the top of the ticket. And then there is Sen. Ben Nelson (D.-Neb.). Would he switch parties or retire? His vote on ObamaCare will be hard to live down in the very red state of Nebraska.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 18, 2011; 4:15 PM ET
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Field a half-decent candidate and this is an easy pickup.

Posted by: gord2 | January 18, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Easy pick-up. Lieberman's seat will be much tougher. Ben Nelson and Jim Webb are probably the next 'rats to leave the sinking ship. If we can pick up McCaskill and Tester's seats, then we'll control the Senate.

Posted by: eoniii | January 18, 2011 6:49 PM | Report abuse

This is the Washington Post, not the New York Post. It isn't the Wall Street Journal either.

So, what do you mean we, white man?

Posted by: ZoltanNewberry | January 18, 2011 7:15 PM | Report abuse

The blog is called "Right Turn".
(Hear the whoosh of the clue-bat)

Posted by: TominColorado | January 18, 2011 8:27 PM | Report abuse

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