updated 2/11/2005 4:09:03 PM ET 2005-02-11T21:09:03

Sen. Mark Dayton said Friday his low poll numbers and an expectation of harsh political attacks were factors in his decision not to seek re-election next year.

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“I certainly was not looking forward to the likelihood that on November 7, 2006, 99 percent of the people of Minnesota would think less well of me than they do now,” Dayton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “There’s no question the Republican strategy is to destroy you personally in order to defeat you politically.”

In his announcement Wednesday, Dayton cited his dislike of fund raising as the reason he would not be the best Democratic candidate next year. But in the interview he said there were other considerations as well.

Dayton said last month’s poll by the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, which showed his approval rating had dropped 15 points, to 43 percent, factored into the decision.

“It’s hard to go into an election cycle and recover that public support, because everything you do is cast in political terms,” he said. “I concluded that the likelihood of keeping the seat Democratic was better with somebody else than with me.”

Dayton, 58, also said that he did not want to be a drag on the Democratic ticket in Minnesota next year.

“I did not want my political epithet to be that I led the DFL Party to defeat or debacle,” he said, referring to the state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor party.

Dayton’s drop in the polls followed last year’s widely criticized decision to temporarily close his Capitol Hill office over a secret intelligence report. He declined to offer an explanation for his lower numbers.

“I’ll leave that to the analysts,” he said.

Dayton has often complained about what he considers out-of-bounds criticism of fellow Democrats, such as former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, a triple-amputee from wounds suffered in the Vietnam War. Cleland lost his re-election in 2002 after Republicans ran ads against him with pictures of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

'Political sewage'
“They’ll bury you in political sewage,” Dayton said. “I certainly was not looking forward to that.”

Dayton argued that a Democratic candidate will be in a good position to win in Minnesota next year, because of the Bush administration’s record on Iraq, Social Security, and the federal budget deficit. But that would have made the criticism of him even more intense, he said.

“The more the issues would be to my advantage, the more they would have to make me the issue,” Dayton said.

Brian Nick, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Democrats were the ones on the attack.

“The Democratic attack machine in the 2004 cycle spent over $268 million through 527 groups in attacking President Bush and Republican candidates,” said Nick. “That far exceeds the money spent by Republicans.”

Dayton, a department store heir, spent $12 million of his own money in his 2000 victory over Republican Sen. Rod Grams, but said he couldn’t afford to self-fund again this time. He finished last year with only $190,000 in the campaign bank.

Also Friday, Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., announced his campaign for Senate in 2006, moving to stake out his position among a slew of Republican hopefuls, including Grams and Rep. Gil Gutknecht.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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