Chris Dodd’s stunning announcement that he’ll retire has turned all eyes on Connecticut’s perennial senator-in-waiting, Richard Blumenthal.

Dodd, a five-term Democratic U.S. senator, is expected to announce Thursday that he’s halting his hard-charging reelection campaign. He has scheduled a noon press conference at his home at East Haddam.

Blumenthal (pictured at Friday’s inauguration of New Haven Mayor John DeStefano), the state’s Democratic attorney general, is expected to make an announcement of his own today.

Once a rising star in state politics, Blumenthal has been stuck in one position since 1990: the attorney general’s office. He has been among the state’s most recognized and popular elected officials in that spot. But he has repeatedly raised expectations about, then backed off, from launching bids for governor or senator. Fellow Democrats have urged him to run for Dodd’s seat, since Dodd’s popularity has plummeted.  Despite lagging in polls to political newcomers, Dodd had forged ahead with a reelection campaign.

Here’s what Blumenthal has told everyone in recent weeks: I won’t challenge Dodd in a primary. But I’m ready to run the second he decides to drop out.

That moment has arrived. By day’s end, the state may find out if Blumenthal’s now finally ready for his long-awaited next move.

Lame Duck Relief

Dodd had hoped to reverse his slide in the polls with his leading role in passing health care and financial reform legislation. Just last week he rallied New Haven Democratic loyalists with that theme and prepared them for a tough campaign ahead. Click here to read about that; click on the play arrow to watch his speech.

After months of pounding from the public and politicians over ethical lapses, Dodd can count on tributes pouring in.

One came from one of the two leading Republicans for Dodd’s seat, former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons.

“I want to thank Senator Chris Dodd for his long service in Congress,” Simmons said in a statement released Wednesday morning. ” While our disagreements have been profound, Heidi and I wish him and his family all the best. Today’s announcement does not change my plan to seek and win the Senate seat from Connecticut.”

Another tribute came this morning from Democratic operative Jonathan Pelto, who began as an intern and then a staffer on Dodd campaigns.

“He has been an extraordinary champion for many causes, but none less then his dedication to children and children’s issues,” Pelto stated in a release he issued at 5:47 a.m. “No one who has served in the United States Senate has done more to help children around the world. Whether it was the Family Leave Act, which will go down in history as the most important pro-family legislation since the Great Depression, or his work on international health issues, Chris Dodd has been the single most effective and most important voice in the battle to make our world a better and healthier place for children. Literally hundreds of millions of lives have been improved because of him. Few can claim such a legacy.”

Dodd was open about how it felt to be rejected by voters after four decades of easy reelections and having reached the pinnacle of power in the U.S. Senate. “Of course it hurts,” he said in an interview recently at the U.S. Capitol. Click on the play arrow to watch highlights of that conversation.