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In the event of an emergency, please proceed calmly to the nearest exit: Dems Ritter, Dodd, Dorgan depart

January 6, 2010 |  2:46 am

Mitt and Ann Romney on Fox & Friends 1-06-10

Pencils ready?

Now that the holiday's family meetings are concluded, we have some 2010 lineup changes for today's political program:

-- North Dakota Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan out after this term.

-- Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd expected to announce same retirement plans today.

-- Colorado Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter reported out after this term, too.

-- Republican ex-Gov. Mitt Romney maybe in for 2012 -- maybe out -- but smells like the former.

-- Florida Republican Jim Greer out as Gov. Charlie Crist's handpicked state party chairman.

Now, a few details so you don't have to go looking:

-- Although the 67-year-old Dorgan had nearly $4 million in stashed campaign funds for a fourth Senate term, he said Monday he wanted to teach and write and was somewhat tired of the rancorous climate change in D.C. in recent years. He said he remained confident in....

... President Obama's rightness and leadership, although the White House occupant only got 45% of North Dakota's presidential vote in 2008. And currently thinks even less of his healthcare plan.

With the confidence that comes from knowing he can't be proved wrong, Dorgan predicted he would be reelected if he ran. Which he isn't. So we'll never really know. But that's a good exit line.

Likely opponents for the empty seat are Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy, who has statewide name recognition because his district is the entire state, and popular Republican Gov. John Hoeven, currently the nation's longest-serving governor (Dec. 15, 2000), who would bring a much-needed mustache to the Senate.

-- Dodd's departure, like Dorgan's, is something of a surprise. Just like Capt. Edward "What Iceberg?" Smith who went down with the Titanic, Dodd had given every indication that he'd stay on the bridge and seek a sixth term.

This despite a stinking economy, sulfurous whiffs of financial scandal, his inattention to the Nutmeg State, moving to Iowa for much of 2007 and 2009 polls showing the Banking Committee chairman losing to just about any breathing Republican in that cute little state.

Recently the about-to-be-66-year-old Dodd even had the newly turned-67-year-old Joe Biden up to Connecticut to help raise money for the now-about-to-be-defunct campaign. Perhaps Biden, who became a senator himself when Obama was only 11, picked up some intell on that trip, causing him to persuade his old pal to pack it in. A Republican seat pick-up there or anywhere could also cost Democrats their fragile 60-seat Senate standing.

-- Colorado Gov. Ritter, once a Democratic rising star, hosted his party's 2008 national convention where Oprah cried off her false eyelashes as well as new President Obama's Denver signing of the economic stimulus bill last spring that has yet to stimulate much. 

Taking control of that crucial state in the once-rock-ribbed Republican Rockies portended exciting things for Western Democrats. But Ritter's lackluster performance and support for -- wait for it -- higher taxes badly weakened his statewide standing.

Florida Republican governor Charlie Crist and Democrat president Barack Obama embrace on the economic stimulus trail

Tuesday, he canceled an evening fundraiser just hours before the cheap campaign canapes went out. And the Associated Press quoted party sources as saying Ritter would give up after his first and last term.

This decision, btw, could cost Obama his Interior secretary. Ex-Sen. Ken Salazar might be tempted to return home where oversized cowboy hats look normal.

-- Also this morning, on Fox & Friends, Romney will announce that he has no announcement about 2012. Who would ask to be shot at this early?

If Republicans do well in November's midterms, however, watch for a stampede of wannabes about this time next year.

In today's taped Fox News interview, Romney and his high school sweetheart, Ann, who talks about her breast cancer battle, says his political focus is on 2010 and helping elect Republicans across the country. Which is very helpful for an ensuing nomination run but obviously doesn't guarantee one.

Still, Romney's successful chief-executive careers in business, politics and Olympics-salvaging and his loyal, yeoman campaigning/fundraising for the 2008 ticket and local Republicans ever since fits the historical pattern favored in candidates allowed to inherit the Republican presidential nomination (Think Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, Dole, McCain).

A 2012 White House run is "always a possibility and you keep your options open," Romney says, suggesting 2011 is decision time.

About Obama: "I thought he would learn that governing from the middle was the right way to go, as President Clinton learned his second term. But he's made a lot of the mistakes that ideologues often do."

Another telltale candidacy clue: Romney's written a book out March 2. Title: "Getting the Rogue." No, just kidding. It's really called: "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness." (St. Martins Press)

-- Republican storm clouds over the Sunshine state, where Gov. Crist would like to become Sen. Crist but faces a stubborn primary insurgency by Marco Rubio.

The former state House Speaker, Rubio is backed by party conservatives who oppose Crist as an Obama-hugging RINO, much the way tea-party supporters went for a Conservative Party member in last fall's special election in New York's 23d District over the establishment GOP's candidate pick. As one result, the Democrat walked away with that traditionally Republican seat.

On Tuesday state chair Greer, Crist's party leader pick three years ago, said he'd step down next month in the face of mounting criticism from conservatives. It's another microcosm of the kind of ideological purity tests going on at the local levels of both parties -- pup tent vs. big tent.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos, from top: Mitt and Ann Romney. Credit: Fox News Channel.  President Obama and Charlie Crist. Credit: Associated Press

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