Here’s a crushing blow from Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota:

“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.

“So, over this holiday season, I have come to the conclusion, with the support of my family, that I will not be seeking another term in the U.S. Senate in 2010. It is a hard decision to make after thirty years in the Congress, but I believe it is the right time for me to pursue these other interests.

“Let me be clear that this decision does not relate to any dissatisfaction that I have about serving in the Senate. Yes, I wish there was less rancor and more bipartisanship in the U.S. Senate these days. But still, it is a great privilege to serve and I have the utmost respect for all of the men and women with whom I serve.

Dorgan may disappoint from time to time on certain votes, but he’s miles ahead of his North Dakotan colleague, Kent Conrad. Dorgan is a prairie populist from the old school and a damn good legislator, too. And, unless there’s something I don’t know, there is a near 100% chance that the Republicans will pick up this open seat in November. I expect that Governor John Hoeven will now get in the race. The only positive is that Dorgan can now vote his conscience without worrying how it will impact his reelection prospects.

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