I don't think anybody saw this coming -- North Dakota's long-time Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan is planning to retire. His statement today reads in part:
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.
A recent Rasmussen poll had shown Dorgan losing by double-digits to Republican Governor John Hoeven. Hoeven, however, hadn't taken any steps to get into the race; it's unclear whether Dorgan had advance notice of Hoeven starting to move toward entering the race and decided to get out of the way, or the 67-year-old Dorgan, as implied in his statement, legitimately had had enough and was ready to try something other than a fourth term. At any rate, it seems much likelier now that Hoeven gets into the race.
On the Dem side, long-time at large Rep. Earl Pomeroy seems like a possible candidate to try for a promotion. (At 58, he's still within Senate range.) However, the Democratic bench here seems to pretty much begin and end with Pomeroy, and he'd still start at a deep disadvantage against Hoeven, and maybe a lesser disadvantage against another statewide Republican official. (Pomeroy running would also expose us to the likely loss of ND-AL.) With the lack of possibilities beyond Pomeroy, we're moving this race to Lean Republican, with a likelihood that it may move further in the Republicans' favor as things unfold.