Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) to Retire in 2012

Posted: Jan 18, 2011 10:38 AM
Democrats's uphill battle to maintain their Senate majority in 2012 just got a little bit steeper:

North Dakota Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad announced today that he will not seek reelection, creating a potentially prime pickup opportunity for Republicans in a GOP-leaning state.

"After months of consideration, I have decided not to seek reelection in 2012," Conrad said in a statement. "There are serious challenges facing our State and nation, like a $14 trillion debt and America's dependence on foreign oil. It is more important I spend my time and energy trying to solve these problems than to be distracted by a campaign for reelection."

Conrad, who currently chairs the Senate Budget Committee, has been in office since 1986 and risen to become one of the most influential -- and intellectual -- policy makers operating in the nation's capital.

Conrad had been open about his ambivalence about running for another term and those doubts almost certainly increased following a 2010 election that decimated the Democratic party.

Conrad sees the writing on the wall in North Dakota.  His Democratic Senate colleague, Byron Dorgan, retired last year, handing the GOP a plum pickup target.  How did that turn out, again?

John Hoeven (R) - 76%
Tracy Potter   (D) - 22%

UPDATE:  Via Jim Geraghty -- Another vulnerable 2012 Senate Democrat is feeling the heat today.  Ben Nelson's (D-NE) prospective Republican opponent has just debuted a new website: 

UPDATE II: Whoa -- Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is expected to announce his retirement tomorrow:

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman — deeply unpopular with voters in his home state — is unlikely to seek reelection, a knowledgeable source tells POLITICO ahead of the senator’s announcement on Wednesday.

The four-term senator’s decision comes after months of speculation on the political future of the independent Democrat.