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Report: Obey Will Announce Retirement Today

Wisconsin Rep. David Obey, one of the most powerful members of Congress as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has scheduled a "major announcement" for 1 p.m., Obey's staff tells RealClearPolitics.

The announcement will take place at a press conference in an Appropriations hearing room in the Rayburn House Office Building.

The AP reports that announcement will be that Obey is not seeking re-election.

Obey is facing relatively low polling numbers for someone of his stature and tenure. He's also being challenged by a highly touted Republican recruit, Ashland County District Attorney Sean Duffy.

The congressman was first elected to Congress in an April 1969 special election, and has been re-elected fairly easily ever since. His closest re-election race came in the Republican year of 1994, when he took just 54 percent of the vote. Democrats could be facing an equally hostile political environment in 2010.

The Exchange: April Edition

It's the first of April, the first quarter filing deadline has passed and the national Senate landscape is beginning to shake out. Since our last look at the races up for election this year, several tiers are becoming evident. Three first-tier targets, look almost certain to flip to the opposing party's control. Four second-tier seats are in serious danger of flipping control. And two third-tier seats have the incumbent party favored, but at least vulnerable. If either party benefits from a huge wave this year, a few other seats could provide close races, but it will take a massive wave to dislodge anyone below the ninth spot.

All this can, and will, change in the months to come. But seven months before election day, here's where the exchange stands:

Races We Considered For The 10 Spot: Mississippi, where appointed Senator Roger Wicker could face a tough contest against Democratic ex-Governor Ronnie Musgrove. But Musgrove's tangential involvement in a lawsuit in Georgia that alleges corporate executives improperly funneled money to his campaign could be a big problem. Kentucky, where Mitch McConnell, the most visible Republican not employed in the White House or named McCain, could face a backlash from voters who just kicked out a GOP governor. Ironically, McConnell could be better suited by associating himself with Washington Republicans than with anything that looks like Ernie Fletcher's GOP, regardless of the fact that the Bluegrass State's Republican Party is more McConnell's than anyone else's. And New Jersey, where Frank Lautenberg could conceivably have a bad moment in a debate and shake Garden State voters' confidence enough to elect a Republican. Lautenberg would have made the ten spot had businessman Andrew Unanue, who entered the race last week, not had such a difficult launch.

Races we dropped since December: Mississippi.

Races we added since December: North Carolina.

10. North Carolina (R-Dole): Republican Elizabeth Dole has not had the easiest first term on record. Her stint as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee was nothing short of disastrous, and though she has fundraised well, some believe she could be vulnerable, especially against a top-tier challenger. Democrats tried to woo Governor Mike Easley and his wife, Mary, but neither were interested. Instead, national strategists hope State Senator Kay Hagan makes it through the primary against investment banker Jim Neal. Hagan has raised good money and could at least keep Dole off the trail on behalf of other Republicans. Still, Hagan faces a serious uphill battle. (Last: Not ranked)

9. Oregon (R-Smith): Republican Gordon Smith should, by any account, be in a heap of trouble. He represents an increasingly Democratic state in what should be a heavily Democratic year. But thanks to a primary in which State House Speaker Jeff Merkley and attorney Steve Novick are forcing each other to the left, Smith could end up winning another term by a wider margin than had Democrats succeeded in avoiding a primary. Smith himself has moved to the middle, voicing opposition to the war in Iraq and distanced himself from the Bush Administration, making him more palatable to his state's war-opposing moderates and independents, a bloc that plays a bigger role than in most states. (Last: 6)

8. Maine (R-Collins): At the opening of the third tier, Democrats are going to need a wave to take out Susan Collins. The Republican incumbent is very popular, though she has a few important factors working against her: The presidential contest will likely bring out Maine's generally Democratic electorate, and Democrats signed their top potential recruit, Rep. Tom Allen. But Collins leads by a wide margin in the only two polls conducted in the state, and support from her close friend Joe Lieberman can only help among the plethora of independents around Maine. Collins is ranked ahead of Gordon Smith, of Oregon, only because of Allen's apparent strength as a candidate. (Last: 8)

7. Minnesota (R-Coleman): Running against a former Saturday Night Live comedian isn't supposed to be this hard. But Republican Senator Norm Coleman will not have an easy time against Al Franken, especially now that the Democrat's path to the nomination is mostly clear. Recent polls have shown the two rivals within the margin of error against each other, and both are raising big bucks. Coleman kicked off his campaign by taking aim at Franken, signaling that the race will be one of the more contentious in the country this year. If Coleman keeps the spotlight on Franken, Coleman can keep his job. One gets the sense that if the race becomes more about the Republican Party that will hold its convention in St. Paul to nominate John McCain, Coleman will win. If the race becomes more about the GOP that elected President Bush twice, Franken could be a Senator. (Last: 7)

6. Louisiana (D-Landrieu): Incumbent Mary Landrieu is virtually the only Democrat on the GOP's target list. While recruits from several other states passed on their races, the GOP got the candidate they want with State Treasurer John Kennedy. Still, Republican voters in the state might not be wedded to Kennedy; he only switched from the Democratic Party last year. And Landrieu's performance after Hurricane Katrina has even won her endorsements from some Republicans. Landrieu remains the favorite in the race, but, given the state's new GOP nature, not by much. (Last: 4)

5. Colorado (R-Open): Poll numbers continue to show the race closer than conventional wisdom suggests. Democratic Rep. Mark Udall continues to lead every survey, but Republican former Rep. Bob Schaffer is keeping the race tight. Udall has a cash advantage, and Democrats have made big gains in the states in recent years. Independents in the state have broken left lately, and if they continue to head that way, the Democrat will win. In a competitive state during a competitive presidential year, the Senate race to replace outgoing Republican Wayne Allard could determine whether Colorado has turned blue, or whether it's still a purple state. (Last: 5)

4. Alaska (R-Stevens): Since our last ranking, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has landed its top recruit, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. The party has high hopes for taking out incumbent Stevens due to his involvement in a scandal surrounding an oil services corporation, and a December poll showed the Democrat leading by six points. That poll also showed Stevens with a seriously upside down approval rating. Thanks to Begich's entry, the race moves to the head of the second-tier pack, but only because of Alaska's hard-Republican tilt and the nagging feeling that Stevens may not be the Republican on the ballot in November. (Last: 9)

3. New Mexico (R-Open): Republican Reps. Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce are increasingly moving right as Democratic Rep. Tom Udall, with a cleared primary field, is already talking to general election voters. Pearce, largely seen as the candidate farther to the right and less electable statewide, took a victory in a recent party convention. With help from Governor Bill Richardson, who is widely popular in the state, Udall should be the next senator from New Mexico. (Last: 2)

2. New Hampshire (R-Sununu): Despite a few American Research Group polls that showed the race between Senator John Sununu and former Democratic Governor Jeanne Shaheen close, recent surveys, including a new one from ARG, shows Shaheen well ahead. Given that Democratic Governor John Lynch has avoided any serious Republican challenger, the GOP will have a more difficult time motivating their voters. The x-factor for Sununu: John McCain is virtually the state's third Senator, and his presence at the top of the ticket could help. But New Hampshire gets ranked ahead of New Mexico because 2006 showed a bigger swing toward Democrats in the Granite State than in the Land of Enchantment. (Last: 3)

1. Virginia (R-Open): Despite some Republican efforts to find another candidate with a shot at beating former Democratic Governor Mark Warner, the party still looks like it will go with former Governor Jim Gilmore. Polls have shown Warner leading his gubernatorial predecessor by a two-to-one margin. Without a major slip from Warner -- his lead in that poll was twice as large as George Allen's over Jim Webb in a Mason-Dixon poll when Allen called a Webb campaign staffer a "macaca" -- Democrats will win the Commonwealth. (Last: 1)

Updating The Exchange

We're updating our Senate race rankings today, which we have failed to do since late September. If you take one lesson from the list, it's that Democrats are in even better position than they were a few months ago: More seats are open, more pickups are possible and the party is still outraising its Republican counterparts.

Still, watch the middle tier races: Sens. Norm Coleman (R-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) are in trouble, but they seem with each passing day to be getting safer. All three are bucking Republican leadership at times, and while Democrats have good candidates against each, the difference between a bad year for the GOP and a terrible year will be the difference between these three surviving or failing.

Races we considered for the number 10 spot: Kentucky, where Democrats are hungry for the potential to knock off Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell has a lot of money, though, and in a presidential year, as Kentucky goes for the GOP nominee, it's hard to imagine any but the best candidate (Rep. Ben Chandler?) having so much as a snowball's chance of beating McConnell. Polls show Chandler and State Auditor Crit Luallen performing well against the incumbent, but both have said they won't run. South Dakota, where Sen. Tim Johnson is still recovering from a stroke, should be a good opportunity for Republicans. So far, though, they have only managed to recruit a State Representative who reported just $37,000 in the bank at the end of the third quarter, nowhere close to Johnson's $2 million account. Because of his health troubles, Johnson had been a retirement threat. But he announced his re-election bid in mid-October, and with an underfunded challenger, he will likely sail to another six year term in 2008.

(Correction: We wrote that State Representative Joel Dykstra had raised $37,000 in the third quarter. In fact, he raised $82,000 in the third quarter and retained $37,000 cash on hand. We regret the error and any resulting confusion.

Races we dropped from the Exchange: South Dakota, Nebraska.

Races we added to the Exchange: New Mexico, Mississippi

As always, agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts. And don't forget to head over to RCP's Fantasy '08 to trade contracts based on your own rankings.


10. Mississippi (R-Open): Resigning Sen. Trent Lott is leaving big shoes to fill, and Republicans might actually have some trouble filling them. As Gov. Haley Barbour looks around for a Republican to hold the seat, Rep. Roger Wicker is seen as the front-runner. Wicker has plenty of cash on hand, giving him a lead over any potential Democratic opponent. Democrats are working on former Attorney General Mike Moore and former Gov. Ronny Musgrove, both of whom would be top picks to steal the seat. But any Democrat will find it difficult, if not impossible, to win in this most ruby red of states. If someone like Hillary Clinton is at the top of the ticket, subtract five more points from the eventual Democratic nominee. (Last: Not ranked)

9. Alaska (R-Stevens): If your home is raided by the FBI, guilty or not, it's probably time to call it a career. Indeed, if Ted Stevens is actually the GOP nominee, this race will move higher up on Democrats' priority list. The DSCC is doing all it can to recruit Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. Other Republicans are said to be interested in a run for the seat, whether or not Stevens makes a bid. If Stevens is no longer in office, the state will have lost both its long-time Senators since 2002, while Rep. Don Young is tied up in the same scandal involving VECO Corp. Without Young, the state's position in Congress will be significantly impacted. In fact, should Stevens and Young run for re-election, that's likely to be a central tenant of their campaign. But will voters want seniority or new elected officials, like Gov. Sarah Palin, who aren't viewed as corrupt? (Last: 10)

8. Maine (R-Collins): Susan Collins was supposed to be this year's Lincoln Chafee: Popular and moderate, but a Republican in a very blue state. Democrats got their best possible candidate in Rep. Tom Allen, but polls in October have showed Collins holding consistently huge leads of twenty points or so. The race is going to tighten, and Allen is going to have the money to compete. But to the NRSC's relief, Collins is in great position a little less than a year out. Watch her rely heavily on her friend and colleague, independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, if the race narrows. (Last: 6)

7. Minnesota (R-Coleman): Comedian Al Franken and wealthy attorney Mike Ciresi both say they will abide by the results of a convention among Minnesota Democrats. But several times over the last few years, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has faced nasty fights in post-convention primaries as candidates fail to live up to their promises. If Franken and Ciresi duke it out in a primary, Franken is likely to win but come away severely wounded. In a general, many will say that Franken is simply too goofy to be a Senator. But he's acting serious, and Minnesota is the same state that elected Jesse Ventura as governor. Incumbent Republican Norm Coleman, to his credit, is apparently taking the threat seriously. One thing to watch: The Democratic convention in Denver will likely help Mark Udall (see number 5, below). With a badly damaged GOP brand, will the Republican convention being held in Minneapolis be a good thing or a bad thing for Coleman? The answer might determine whether he gets re-elected. (Last: 8)

6. Oregon (R-Smith): Democrats are coalescing around House Speaker Jeff Merkley, though he still faces attorney Steve Novick in a primary. Merkley, who has his sights set on incumbent Gordon Smith, faces an uphill battle: Smith is doing all he can to inoculate himself from charges that he might, in fact, be a Republican. Smith has turned against the war in Iraq, recently voted for cloture on the farm bill, something 45 Republicans voted against, and makes his opposition to the Bush Administration known at every turn. But he is a Republican in a blue state during a presidential year. Merkley will need some national help if he is to compete with Smith on a financial level, but this year, that is not impossible. (Last: 5)

5. Colorado (R-Open): Rep. Mark Udall is hoping to build on a Democratic foundation that has overtaken this increasingly purple state in recent years. Democrats now control the state legislature, the majority of the Congressional delegation and the governor's mansion, and Udall hopes to take back a second Senate seat from retiring Sen. Wayne Allard. Republicans recruited previous Senate candidate and former Rep. Bob Schaffer, and while he's not the party's perfect candidate, he spent the summer raising good money and, to the surprise of many, was within one point of Udall in a mid-September poll. Still, with the Colorado landscape favoring Democrats so much, Udall remains the favorite. This is a district where the DSCC's huge money advantage over the NRSC could come into serious play. (Last: 3)

4. Louisiana (D-Landrieu): Down on the Bayou, incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu is undeniably in trouble. A Zogby poll taken for the two-term senator's challenger, Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy, a former Democrat, shows Kennedy up by seven points. That's not a huge margin for an internal poll, but any survey that shows an incumbent trailing a challenger is significant news. Landrieu had more than $3.4 million cash on hand after the third quarter, while Kennedy hadn't begun raising money. Still, the Democrat who lost several hundred thousand members of her base remains the Republicans' best target for a pickup. (Last: 4)

3. New Hampshire (R-Sununu): A poll in early October showed the rematch between Republican Sen. John Sununu and former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen overwhelmingly favoring Shaheen, the Democrat. Shaheen faces no primary and will benefit from her organization, which has stayed largely intact since her departure from the governor's mansion. Gov. John Lynch, a close ally, has kept that organization in good practice, winning with a higher percentage of votes than any governor in the state's history in 2006. Lynch is unlikely to get a strong challenger in 2008, and after the Democratic wave that swept the state last year, Shaheen remains a favorite to take the seat back for Democrats. (Last: 1)

2. New Mexico (R-Open): If Republicans can get bad news about New Mexico, bet that they will. When Sen. Pete Domenici announced his retirement, moderate Albuquerque Rep. Heather Wilson looked like a great candidate to retain the seat for the GOP. Then, dominoes started falling: Conservative Rep. Steve Pearce joined Wilson in the GOP primary. Rep. Tom Udall, a popular Democrat who will be well-funded, reconsidered his earlier decision not to run and jumped into the race, giving the party their strongest candidate to take the seat. But Udall's path wasn't entirely clear: He faced Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez in the primary. Until, that is, Chavez dropped his bid, giving Udall a clear shot. News can't get any worse for Republicans in New Mexico. But if it can, it probably will. (Last: Not ranked)

1. Virginia (R-Open): Mark Warner seems headed straight for the Senate, even if he faces another former governor in the general election. Polls repeatedly show Warner beating Jim Gilmore by twenty points or more, and there's a simple reason: Gilmore was elected when Virginia was a Republican state. Warner helped nudge the state to purple status, where it currently resides. After Gilmore forced Northern Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, a moderate, out of the race, Virginia Republicans will struggle to appeal even to GOP-leaning independents. The party can all but kiss the Senate seat goodbye. (Last: 2)

The Exchange: Ranking Senate Races

Today, we debut Politics Nation's Exchange, where we rank the big Senate races up for election in 2008. We've ranked the races based on the order in which we think they are most likely to change hands -- that is, the number one race is the seat most likely to switch from one party's control to the other.

Bottom line: it's an ugly year for Republicans, and it's probably not going to get much better. With the number of GOP open seats rising, the fundraising gap between the two parties widening and all the breaks seeming to favor Democrats, Republicans are looking at another disappointing year in 2008, though a lot more dominoes would have to fall for Democrats to break the magic 60 number.

Agree? Disagree? Drop us a line, and make sure to trade your contracts in RCP's Fantasy '08 stock exchange.

10. Alaska: (R) A recent report on National Public Radio suggested that Alaska has three main sources of revenue: Oil and gas drilling, tourism, and Sen. Ted Stevens, who has brought billions to the state over his long career. But with Stevens under increasing scrutiny for his role with the Veco Corp., retirement rumors are spreading, and over the weekend even Gov. Sarah Palin, a fellow Republican, got into the act, saying Alaskans needed to hear a better explanation from Stevens. If Stevens steps down, Republicans would be favored to hold the seat; possible candidates would include Lieutenant Gov. Sean Parnell, former State Sen. John Binkley, who ran for governor in 2006, and several incumbent legislators. Democrats, though, have two strong candidates -- 2006 Lieutenant Gov. nominee Ethan Berkowitz and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, whose father served in Congress. Begich would seem to be the stronger candidate; the last Democrat elected statewide, Tony Knowles, also served as mayor of the state's largest city.

9. South Dakota: (D) Sen. Tim Johnson's medical issues continue to raise questions about whether or not he will retire, though his recent return to the Senate indicates he's not quite done yet. If he does retire, Democrats would likely turn to Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, who is used to difficult races and is known because of her statewide district. Republicans have a problem, in that no strong challenger has emerged to face Johnson, and even Herseth got a relatively easy ride in 2006. That all changes, though, if Gov. Mike Rounds (R) would move to replace Johnson. Rounds is one of the most popular governors in the country, and if he makes a race, he would become an immediate front-runner and the GOP's best pickup opportunity of the cycle.

8. Minnesota: (R) Sen. Norm Coleman came to Washington under less than ideal circumstances -- following the death of his opponent in 2002, Paul Wellstone. He is somewhat popular in the state, but Minnesota is still Democratic, and in a year less than favorable to the Republican Party, Coleman, while the initial favorite, will have his work cut out for him. His Democratic opponent will be the winner of a primary between comedian Al Franken and attorney Mike Ciresi, both of whom fall short as Democrats' ideal nominees. Still, Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty came within a whisker of losing to a less-than-stellar Democratic challenger in 2006, and with a similar national tide against the GOP, Coleman could find himself in a nail-biter.

7. Nebraska: (R -- Open) His Senate career over, the race to succeed Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) has heated up incredibly quickly. Like New Hampshire, both parties got their strongest potential candidates. Unlike New Hampshire, where Democrats got out of the way of former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, Republican former Gov. Mike Johanns may face a contested primary. It is unclear how much a challenge from Attorney General Jon Bruning will distract Johanns, but the GOP doesn't need the fight in a strongly Republican state. If the Republican nominee faces former Sen. Bob Kerrey, who is flirting with a bid, only Johanns would be considered a favorite against Kerrey. Johanns would be a heavier favorite against Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey or 2006 congressional candidate Scott Kleeb. With Kerrey in the race, Democrats will spend money here. Without Kerrey, this race moves much farther down the list.

6. Maine: (R) Home of two of the most popular senators in the country, Maine is a reliably Democratic state that has elected Republican senators for the past several terms. Senior Sen. Olympia Snowe won her first race with 60%, and has improved in her two re-election bids, winning in 2006 with 74%. Junior Sen. Susan Collins, up in 2008, won her first race with less than 50% of the vote, though she earned 58% in 2002. Still, Democrats got their top recruit -- Rep. Tom Allen -- and both candidates will be well-funded. Early polls have showed Collins running ahead, and her skepticism of the war in Iraq should help her. Allen, however, will not go quietly, and will likely make this one of the nation's top races.

5. Oregon: (R) Incumbent Gordon Smith is used to tough races. Running in a special election in 1996, Smith lost to fellow Sen. Ron Wyden by less than 20,000 votes; he won a regular election later that year by just over 50,000 votes. Smith is a talented politician, and outran a strong candidate in 2002 by 16 points. Democrats, too, failed to recruit their top choices -- Rep. Peter DeFazio and former Gov. John Kitzhaber first among them -- and have settled on State House Speaker Jeff Merkley. Still, Merkley is getting his house in order early (though he faces a primary) and fewer Oregonians will be willing to vote Republican than they were in 2002, a good year for the GOP. Smith's position on Iraq has evolved, and he'll need to hope he's convinced Oregon voters if he wants to hang on.

4. Louisiana: (D) After Hurricane Katrina, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) lost thousands of her voters in Democratic New Orleans. Now, faced with the possibility of Democrat-turned-Republican John Kennedy as her opponent, Landrieu faces the fight of her political life. She's not taking the race lying down, though, and both candidates will have national support and huge bankrolls. If Rep. Bobby Jindal (R) can't get 50% to win the gubernatorial election in the first round of voting, Landrieu's turnout operation works, and she would have a strong chance in 2008. If Jindal wins outright this year, Landrieu's fortunes will take a dramatic downward turn.

3. Colorado: (R -- Open) Like Virginia and New Hampshire (see below), Colorado has trended Democratic of late. The state legislature is now in the hands of Democrats, and Bill Ritter and Ken Salazar have won statewide elections to take over previously Republican seats. Now, former Rep. Bob Schaffer is the best candidate Republicans can field, while Rep. Mark Udall, the Democrats' strongest possible choice, has been preparing for the race for years. Udall is more liberal than Ritter and Salazar, but Schaffer is not the best the GOP could do. Udall has raised a bundle of cash, and national Democrats are all but assured that this seat is theirs for the taking.

2. Virginia: (R -- Open) In elections for the Commonwealth's two Senate seats and the governor's mansion, no Republican other than retiring Senator John Warner has won since George Allen beat Chuck Robb in 2000. Now, former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D), who remains popular around the state, has jumped in the race to succeed John Warner. A divisive Republican primary would leave the GOP with either conservative former Gov. Jim Gilmore or more moderate Rep. Tom Davis, while Warner's path to the Democratic nomination is clear. No matter the winner of the GOP race, Warner starts out as the heavy favorite.

1. New Hampshire: (R) No state felt the Democratic wave in 2006 as much as New Hampshire did. Democrats picked up more than 80 seats in the State House, won control of the State Senate and kicked out two Republican members of Congress. All that happened as the incumbent Democratic governor won with more than 70%. Early polls show a rematch between former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and Sen. John Sununu, which narrowly went to Sununu six years ago, favoring Shaheen by wide margins. Also six years ago, Republican Craig Benson shared the top of the ticket with Sununu and won the governor's mansion. This year, Democrat John Lynch, whose disapproval ratings have never climbed above 15%, could boost Shaheen's numbers quite a lot.