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Retirement Wave Hits Capitol Hill

Republican Sen. Pete Domenici announces his retirement Thursday in his home state of New Mexico. He is the latest lawmaker — and Republican — to announce plans to leave Congress at the end of the session.

In total, 15 House and Senate lawmakers plan to retire at the end of the year, according to John Dickerson, with the online magazine Slate. The rash of departures is especially problematic for Republicans, who are already facing an up-hill battle to take back the Congress next fall.

Domenici's departure is particularly tricky for the GOP leadership, Dickerson says. The senator has been outspoken in his opposition to some of President Bush's policies, including the Iraq war. However, his decision not to seek re-election puts New Mexico in play, giving Democrats a shot at claiming his seat.

Not only do the Republicans have to deal with several members of their party stepping down, they have to deal with a few members who won't. Sens. Larry Craig, of Idaho, and Ted Stevens, of Alaska, are embroiled in scandals that could hurt the Republicans at the polls. Both are planning to keep their seats for now.

Also, Dickerson says, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson is facing his own problems on the campaign trail. The Republican presidential candidate was billed as the white knight who was going to excite Republican voters. Recently, though, Thompson had to encourage a crowd to applaud him.

Dickerson talks to Alex Chadwick about Thompson and the congressional retirements.

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