Two Democratic senators — Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Chris Dodd of Connecticut — have announced they will not be seeking re-election. Republicans were already favored to take Dorgan’s seat; North Dakota is not exactly friendly turf for Democrats, given that John McCain carried the state by 53-44.5 percent. Dorgan’s decision to walk away makes a GOP pickup even more likely.
Dodd’s case is different. He too faced a tough bid for what would have been his sixth term, but for reasons limited to Dodd himself. Over the years he had grown too close to the financial interests that he was supposed to oversee from his position on the Senate Banking Committee, and it caught up with him. Efforts in recent months to take a harder line haven’t changed public impressions.
However, Connecticut remains favorable territory for Democrats — Obama won 60.5 percent of the vote there, compared to 38.2 percent for McCain. Dodd’s departure makes it more likely the seat will stay Democratic.
Overall, it’s almost impossible to see how Democrats will retain their 60-vote margin through the November election or lose control of the Senate altogether. A more likely outcome would be to hold 55-56 seats.
In the House, the current situation is becoming more dire for Democrats, as the chart below — tracking voters’ party preference in a generic House race — illustrates:
The Democrats are still highly unlikely to lose control of the House, but the history of mid-term elections and these numbers suggest that they’re likely to lose some 25 to 30 seats from their 79-seat advantage. Unlike the Senate numbers, though, there’s still a lot of play in the future of the House. A lot depends on what the economy does between now and the fall.