U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd is expected to announce Wednesday that he will not seek re-election.
Sen. Christopher Dodd announced just past noon Wednesday that this would be his final term in the U.S. Senate.
"I love my job as your Senator, I always have, I still do," he began. "But this year has raised some challenges that insisted I take stock of my life" he continued.
And with that, Dodd turned to announce that he would not be seeking re-election to the U.S. Senate.
The five-term Democrat whose political stock began falling after the financial meltdown and his failed 2008 presidential bid, invoked Sen. Edward Kennedy as he explained he made the decision two weeks ago that it was time to move aside.
"In the long sweep of American history," he said, "there are moments for each elected public servant to step aside and let someone else step up. This is my moment to step aside."
Dodd said he recognized that there are moments for politicians to step aside and let someone else lead. He said this was one of those times.
Word of Dodd's decision started to spread early Wednesday morning when officials disclosed his plans, speaking only on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement. The Washington Post first reported Dodd's decision, which NBC News also confirmed.
Dodd's announcement came hours after North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan said he will not seek re-election.
Dodd, 66, is chairman of Senate Banking Committee, which was at the center of efforts to deal with the economic meltdown. And he has played a prominent role in the debate over overhauling health care, taking over for his friend Ted Kennedy during his illness and after his death.
In a Quinnipiac University poll released in November, Connecticut voters disapproved, 54 to 40 percent, of the job Dodd is doing and 53 percent said he does not deserve reelection.
Given Dodd's bad poll standing, other Democrats have gone out of their way to give him the spotlight in hopes he could recover before November. And high-profile Democrats, including President Barack Obama and Vice President, have visited the state to help Dodd raise money and hold onto his seat.
"Republicans thought they might steal this seat, but now they should probably look elsewhere," said Roy Occhiogrosso, a veteran Democratic strategist in Connecticut and a Dodd supporter. "This is Dick Blumenthal's race. People in Connecticut know who he is. They know the work he's done. They know he can go to Washington and continue the same kind of work."
President Barack Obama issued a statement about Dodd’s decision on Wednesday afternoon.
"From his time as a young Peace Corps volunteer to his five terms in the United States Senate, Chris Dodd has devoted his life to public service,” he said.
He commended Dodd’s work for children and families and jobs and said he will be missed.
“While his work in the Senate is not yet finished, his leadership in that institution will be missed. Michelle and I extend our thanks to Senator Dodd for his service to our Nation and offer our best wishes for the future to him and his family," Obama said.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro was Dodd's chief of staff from 1981 to 1987 and said she learned from him what it meant to be a member of Congress.
“Senator Dodd has always known what he stands for, where he believes the country needs to go, and – perhaps most importantly – how to get there," DeLauro said.
“Throughout his career, nobody has fought harder for the American people. Chris has known how to get good legislation passed – but more than that – he has had the vision, commitment, dedication, and integrity to get it done. He has an extraordinary legacy of historic legislation," she said.
Dodd, who has taken heat for a discounted VIP mortgage loan he got from a subprime lender, has been consistently behind potential GOP challenger Rob Simmons in Connecticut polls. Simmons, a former House member, has his own challenger in World Wrestling Entertainment co-founder Linda McMahon, who is also seeking the Republican nomination for Dodd's seat.
As recently as Monday, Dodd brushed aside questions about stepping aside for another Democratic candidate, and insisted he was in the race for good. He acknowledged that some of his fellow Democrats were "antsy" with his low poll numbers, but said things can change quickly in politics.
"Clearly I'm glad the race isn't today, and the good news is, it's not," Dodd told reporters as he toured a small manufacturing company in Bristol, Conn.
Last week, Dodd's campaign sent an e-mail to supporters seeking contributions. "The Republicans have declared my seat as one of the top targets and they intend to spend whatever it takes to win," the e-mail said.
McMahon's campaign released a statement early Wednesday saying: "Linda McMahon's appeal in this race from day one has been that she's an outsider with real world experience at a time when it's clear Washington has lost its way and career politicians just don't get it. None of that changes."
Dodd ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, moving his family to Iowa for weeks before the caucuses and angering Connecticut constituents. He dropped out after a poor showing in Iowa.
As chairman of the Senate banking panel, Dodd has come under fire for his reliance on Wall Street contributions. He drew criticism for his role in writing a bill that protected bonuses for executives at bailed-out insurer American International Group Inc. and for allegations he got favorable treatment on two mortgages with Countrywide Financial Corp.
The Senate ethics panel cleared Dodd of breaking rules by getting the Countrywide mortgages but scolded him for not doing more to avoid the appearance of sweetheart deals. The Countrywide controversy, however, dogged Dodd for several months.
Dodd in August underwent surgery for prostate cancer; he said it was in an early, treatable stage. He also lost his closest friend in the Senate, Kennedy, who died last summer after a battle with brain cancer.