Politico: Dodd To Stay At Banking

Big scoop from Politico:

Sen. Chris Dodd is expected to remain chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, two Senate insiders told POLITICO.

Dodd is expected to make the announcement Wednesday, according to sources in Connecticut and Washington.

A decision to stay at the banking panel rather than take the gavel at the Senate would be a surprise after widespread speculation that the embattled Dodd would prefer to take the top spot at the Health, Education, Pensions and Labor committee left vacant by the late Ted Kennedy. But staying at Banking would allow Dodd to be the lead player on a major overhaul of financial regulations later this fall. With Dodd staying on Banking, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), would be next in line to take the Health committee chairmanship and guide that panel through the final negotiations on health care.

This comes as a bit of a surprise, given Dodd's friendship with Kennedy and his need for a poll-bolstering move, but it also seems like good news to me. Harkin's not a bad guy to have in charge of the labor committee; I'm caring less and less about Senate health care posturing in the hopes that the House takes the lead; and as iffy as Dodd may be at Banking, he's probably a better choice than the more conservative Tim Johnson (D-SD) would be. If Harkin does take the position, the embattled Blanche Lincoln will likely take over his role as Chair, a move that could help us keep her Arkansas seat in Democratic (if not progressive) hands.

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SD-Sen: Republicans Have Another Massive Recruitment Failure

With Republican Governor Mike Rounds demurring on the possibility of a Senate run against Democratic Senator Tim Johnson, the Senate GOP turned to scraping the bottom of the barrel to try to come up with another candidate -- who might serve as just the second conceivably viable challenger to a Democrat this cycle (the other being John Kennedy to Mary Landrieu in Louisiana). To this end, the National Republican Senatorial Committee worked hard to try to recruit former Lieutenant Governor Steve Kirby to run against Johnson. But that wasn't to be.

Former Lt. Gov. Steve Kirby told the Argus Leader this morning that he will not challenge Sen. Tim Johnson in this year's Senate race.

Kirby, a Sioux Falls businessman, ended weeks of speculation with the announcement.

Kirby's decision not to seek the GOP nomination leaves three Republicans in the race: Joel Dykstra, the assistant majority leader in the state House; Spearfish businessman Sam Kephart; and former Ambassador Bert Tollefson. With only two weeks left before petitions are due to make the ballot, it's becoming less and less likely that another Republican will enter the race.

Kirby was one of several prominent Republicans courted by the party's leaders in Washington, D.C. to challenge Johnson, who is seeking a third term. He appealed to Republicans because of his statewide name recognition and wealth. But political observers also said he brought some baggage to the table following a bruising campaign for governor in 2002 in which he lost in the primary.

Of course it's worth noting that Johnson comes into this race with a whole lot of strengths, including a 73 percent favorable rating according to Rasmussen Reports. What's more, in head-to-head polling pitting Johnson and Kirby against one another, the Democrat wins by a 62 percent to 32 percent margin, per that same recent Rasmussen poll.

That all said, you can't just look at this recruitment failure in a vacuum; you must look at it in light of everything else that is happening in the race for control over the Senate. Indeed, this was the second major recruitment failure of the last week, on top of the many, many more we've seen throughout this cycle thus far. And with continual recruitment failures and retirement woes, as well as a huge cash-on-hand gap relative to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (we're talking well over 2-to-1, or $29.5 million to $13.2 million, when debts and obligations are taken into account), this is really turning out to be a terrible cycle for John Ensign and the folks at the NRSC.

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SD-Sen: Tim Johnson Looking Very Strong Electorally

lowkell noted this already up in Breaking Blue, but I think it's worth a mention here on the front page as well. South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson is looking really strong electorally these days. Markos has the latest Democratic numbers on the race pitting Johnson up against former Republican Lt. Gov. Steve Kirby, who the GOP is rumored to be trying to recruit these days.

Thinking about the election for U.S. Senate in November 2008, if the election for Senate were held today and the candidates were Democrat Tim Johnson and Republican Steve Kirby - for whom would you vote, Tim Johnson or Steve Kirby?

Johnson (D) 66
Kirby (R) 29

Even taking the grain(s) of salt required when reading partisan polling, these numbers are really amazing. Though I had expected to see Johnson doing well -- after all, he won in the worst of environments for the Democrats back in 2002 and has had the entire state rooting and praying for him to recover over the past year -- I did not expect him to be doing this well electorally.

South Dakota was supposed to be the best pick up opportunity for the Senate GOP this cycle. No longer.

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Tim Johnson: Tell President Bush to Sign SCHIP!

From Sen. Tim Johnson's office...cross posted on Badlands Blue.

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SD-Sen: Tim Johnson Officially Running for Reelection

More good news out of South Dakota -- Tim Johnson is running for reelection.

In a statement released today Senator Tim Johnson verifies what he has said publicly since his return to work over a month ago, Senator Johnson will seek re-election in 2008. A formal announcement will follow in 2008, as has been Johnson's practice in the past.

"I was looking forward to asking South Dakotans to allow me to serve them for another term prior to my illness last December. Since then, I have never once lost my desire to continue serving South Dakota, but I needed time to recover and regain my health in order to determine whether I could do the job and best serve our state. After months of rehabilitation and recovery, more than a month on the job in Washington and after my recent trips back to South Dakota it is clear, to my family, my doctors, and me that I am able to do the hard work required of a United States Senator. I have said before that, I wanted to take this second chance at life and focus even harder on being the best advocate I can for the people of South Dakota. Today I am asking South Dakotans to give me the chance to give back to them by announcing that I will run for re-election in 2008."

This announcement today comes on the heels of news that Johnson brought in $450,000 during the third quarter, bringing his cash-on-hand as of September 30 to a healthy $2 million. Coupled with the fact that the Republicans still don't have a particularly strong candidate in the race -- and certainly not their favored candidate, GOP Governor Mike Rounds -- and this race increasingly looks like one in which the Democrats are clearly favored.

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