Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010 | 11:43 a.m.
WASHINGTON -- Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd’s announcement today that he will not seek re-election puts Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the top spot as the nation’s most vulnerable Democratic senator in 2010.
Reid and Dodd had been vying for the No. 1 position on several election watch lists, as both suffer from dangerously low approval ratings in their home states.
When asked which Democratic senator was the most vulnerable during a panel discussion in October, Senate analyst Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report wavered between the two before settling on Dodd.
Today, though, with the Connecticut senator’s announcement he will forego a sixth term, Reid takes over.
Reid, Duffy said, is the most vulnerable -- “for the moment,” she said.
Republicans have had Reid in their sights ever since he began his ascent as party leader in 2004, and the race in Nevada is expected to become nationalized as a proxy battle on the Obama administration policies.
Even without an A-list frontrunner on the Republican side to challenge Reid in Nevada, the election is expected to draw Republican donors and machinery from across the country into the state in an attempt to take down the majority leader.
As many as 10 Republicans have suggested they will run in the June primary, with former state party leader Sue Lowden and UNLV basketball star-turned-businessman Danny Tarkanian emerging to lead the pack. Reid also faces a potential challenge from a perennial candidate now running as a Democrat.
Reid's campaign has been working to raise a $25 million war chest, run TV ads and re-introduce the powerful senator to the state’s transient population.
In many ways, the new ranking is more a psychological shift rather than one that would dramatically alter the dynamics or mechanics of the race.
"National Republicans made it clear from day one that Sen. Reid would be their top political target," said Reid campaign manager Brandon Hall. "We will continue to build an aggressive campaign so Sen. Reid can continue his work to create jobs and turn around Nevada's struggling economy."
After enjoying dominance in the past two election cycles, Democrats are facing difficulties heading into November as the national mood shifts.
Dodd’s announcement comes a day after fellow Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota announced he, too, would not seek re-election in what was expected to be a potentially difficult race.
Most analysts believe Democrats will lose seats in the midterm election in both the House and Senate but retain control of both chambers.
On Tuesday, national political analyst Stu Rothenberg in Washington shifted Democratic Rep. Dina Titus’ seat slightly toward Republicans – setting up another potentially difficult election in the historically politically-split Southern Nevada district that supported Obama.
In the Senate, the days of the Democrats' 60-seat supermajority, needed to break the filibuster of Republican opposition, seem increasingly numbered.