Bombshell: Byron Dorgan announces retirement

‘Twas ObamaCare that killed the beast. Health-care reform is radioactive in North Dakota and, thanks to his support for it, so was Dorgan: As of two weeks ago, as a three-term incumbent, he trailed the state’s Republican governor John Hoeven in a hypothetical match-up by fully 22 points.

So here’s his “you can’t fire me, I quit!” moment.

For the past year, I have been making plans to seek another six-year Senate term in next year’s election. Those plans included raising campaign funds and doing the organizing necessary to wage a successful campaign…

Although I still have a passion for public service and enjoy my work in the Senate, I have other interests and I have other things I would like to pursue outside of public life. I have written two books and have an invitation from a publisher to write two more books. I would like to do some teaching and would also like to work on energy policy in the private sector.

So, over this holiday season, I have come to the conclusion, with the support of my family, that I will not be seeking another term in the U.S. Senate in 2010. It is a hard decision to make after thirty years in the Congress, but I believe it is the right time for me to pursue these other interests.

Let me be clear that this decision does not relate to any dissatisfaction that I have about serving in the Senate. Yes, I wish there was less rancor and more bipartisanship in the U.S. Senate these days. But still, it is a great privilege to serve and I have the utmost respect for all of the men and women with whom I serve.

He actually goes so far as to remind people that he’d been planning to run again. Amazing. This is an easy GOP pick-up, especially if Hoeven runs, but that’s a long-term issue. Short-term, two big points. One: Will this spook other Dems looking at long odds next year to quit? Like Ambinder says, this is first and foremost a psychological blow. Dodd’s probably asking himself the obligatory “should I spend more time with my family?” question right now. Two: How does this impact ObamaCare? Do Blue Dogs like Lincoln finally head for the hills at the next cloture vote?