The new year usually means a fresh start, but 2010 so far has meant a slew of Democratic finishes.  First Byron Dorgan announced a surprise retirement from the Senate, and Colorado Governor Bill Ritter decided not to run for re-election.  Today, Chris Dodd will announce that he will also retire from the Senate, which Connecticut voters would have ensured anyway:

Embattled Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday at which he is expected to announce he will not seek reelection, sources familiar with his plans said Tuesday night.

Word of Dodd’s retirement plans comes after months of speculation about his political future, his faltering poll numbers and a growing sense among the Democratic establishment that he could not win a sixth term in the Senate. The news also came on the same day Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) announced he would not seek reelection.

Once among the safest of incumbents, Dodd’s political star fell over a two-year period, during which he moved his family to Iowa to pursue the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination and was linked to a VIP mortgage loan program overseen by a controversial Wall Street financier. He also drew harsh questions about his oversight of Wall Street, as chair of the Senate Banking Committee, in the years when the nation’s financial system was heading toward near collapse.

Dodd’s poll numbers plummeted last spring before rebounding somewhat over the summer. But another dive in the polls late last year led to widespread concern that Dodd needed to vacate the seat for Democrats to have a chance at retaining it in the 2010 elections.

Before anyone starts cheering this on the Right, keep in mind that Dodd would not have likely lost a primary challenge, but almost certainly would have lost the general election.  Whispers have come out of Washington for months that national Democrats have been quietly pressuring Dodd to retire in order to clear the field for a better candidate.  With Dodd on the ballot, Republicans have a winning argument in the election based on Dodd’s corruption and incompetence; without him, the GOP may be punching at air just a little bit.

That still doesn’t make this bad news.  Dodd’s corruption and incompetence will not be missed in the Senate regardless of how he chooses to exit.  If this is a less ignominious end than losing an election in a state that regularly elects Democrats and liberals, it doesn’t miss by much.

Besides, it doesn’t have to mean a lost opportunity for the GOP.  They have a couple of well-funded candidates vying for the nomination in Rob Simmons and Linda McMahon, while the Democrats will get a late start on the cycle, thanks to Dodd dragging this out as long as possible.  Even if Dodd’s not on the ticket, Republicans will most certainly make Dodd and his Friends of Angelo graft Exhibit A in the general election, and Harry Reid and the radical Democratic agenda Exhibits B-Z.  It will make for a tougher campaign, but not necessarily a futile one, even in Connecticut.

But how’s this for irony: who would have guessed three years ago that Joe Lieberman would have outlasted Chris Dodd?