Here's a potential upside for Democrats to the retirements of Sens. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND): they could end up saving money on those races in 2010.
Dodd's reelection race figured to draw significant resources from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and other national Democrats, as one of their top Senate contests in 2010. In a typically blue state that Democrats wouldn't want to lose, Dodd would have needed the help: he trailed two GOP challengers in polls--former Rep. Rob Simmons by double digits in some polls, and Linda McMahon by a slimmer margin.
As Marc has pointed out, Dodd's retirement gives Democrats a better shot at retaining that seat. It also gives them a chance to spend less money doing it. We'll need to see more polls before knowing whether that's the case, but Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is preparing to run for the seat, is popular and looks to be a stronger candidate, with a 78 percent approval rating according to Quinnipiac.
According to Public Policy Polling (PPP), Blumenthal is a huge favorite: he will enter the race leading Simmons 59 percent to 28 percent and McMahon by a virtually identical margin, 60 percent to 28 percent, according to a PPP survey of 522 Connecticut voters conducted Monday and Tuesday. A caveat about this poll: PPP's automated survey didn't ask respondents about Blumenthal as a candidate until the 12th question--and automated polls are thought to yield less accurate results as questions progress, since, it is speculated, respondents' patience wears thin when talking to a machine for that long.
But if Blumenthal carries a solid lead as 2010 progresses, Democrats will likely spend much less on that race than if Dodd had run.
In North Dakota, the effect is less clear, due to an uncertain election landscape before Dorgan's retirement. The situation could be opposite, but the result could be the same.
Dorgan faced a tough potential race against popular Republican Gov. John Hoeven, who had not decided to run (indications, now, are that he will). If Hoeven hadn't gotten into the race, sailing for Dorgan would have been relatively smooth; had Hoeven run against Dorgan, the profile of that race would have shot up on Democrats' charts, according to one Democratic official--and, we can assume, Democratic spending would have shot up too.
Democrats' new candidate could be Heidi Heitkamp, the state's former attorney general who lost to Hoeven in the 2000 gubernatorial election, or Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND).
Whoever Democrats manage to recruit, if their candidate appears to be at a big disadvantage to Hoeven, it's unlikely that Democrats would continue to sink resources into a losing race as November 2010 nears.
None of this is to diminish the notion that, from a morale standpoint, retirements generally aren't that good. But in this case, while it's unclear what effect Dorgan's retirement will have on Democratic spending, we can say Dodd's race, at least, will probably mean a cheaper race in Connecticut--freeing Democratic cash for other top Senate races in states like Missouri, Delaware, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Colorado.