GOP gun­ning for a sud­denly vul­ner­a­ble Dodd

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVID R. SANDS

Five-term Con­necti­cut Sen. Christo­pher J. Dodd un­ex­pect­edly has emerged as one of the most vul­ner­a­ble Se­nate Democrats head­ing into the 2010 elec­tion cy­cle, with a new poll, a new chal­lenger and new ethics prob­lems all sur­fac­ing in re­cent days to give Repub­li­cans hope for tak­ing the seat.

Mr. Dodd’s pow­er­ful perch as chair­man of the Se­nate Bank­ing Com­mit­tee is prov­ing a li­a­bil­ity as the fi­nan­cial bad news keeps com­ing. His abortive pres­i­den­tial run — dur­ing which he moved his fam­ily to Iowa for a year — did not play well with home state vot­ers. And a Se­nate Ethics Com­mit­tee probe of his per­sonal fi­nan­cial deal­ings has dragged on with no quick res­o­lu­tion in sight.

“It’s amaz­ing be­cause if you’d asked any­one two years ago if Se­na­tor Dodd was vul­ner­a­ble, they would have thought you were nuts,” said Kenneth Dautrich, who teaches pub­lic pol­icy at the Uni­ver­sity of Con­necti­cut and founded the school’s Cen­ter for Sur­vey Re­search and Anal­y­sis.

“Now all the in­di­ca­tions are we are in for a real race,” he said.

The Repub­li­can Party has not fared well in New Eng­land in re­cent years, and Brian Walsh, spokesman for the Na­tional Repub­li­can Sen­a­to­rial Com­mit­tee, ac­knowl­edges that the “de­mo­graph­ics in Con­necti­cut make it an up­hill bat­tle for us.”

“But there’s no ques­tion this could be a tremendous op­por­tu­nity for us,” Mr. Walsh said. “If we want to pick up seats, we have to stay on the of­fen­sive, and we’re def­i­nitely do­ing that in Con­necti­cut.”

Bol­ster­ing the Repub­li­can hopes was a new Quin­nip­iac Uni­ver­sity poll con­ducted ear­lier this month that found Mr. Dodd in a sta­tis­ti­cal dead heat with po­ten­tial Repub­li­can chal­lenger Rob Sim­mons, a for­mer con­gress­man who con­firmed over the week­end he would en­ter the race.

Mr. Sim­mons, who barely lost his House seat in 2006, edged Mr. Dodd 43 per­cent to 42 per­cent in a head-to-head matchup, de­spite lack­ing the name recog­ni­tion of his ri­val.

“Th­ese num­bers

have

to worry [Mr. Dodd],” said poll­ster Dou­glas Schwartz. Mr. Sim­mons “is not well-known out­side his district, yet he is run­ning neckand-neck with Dodd at this point,” he said.

Democrats cau­tion that the elec­tion is a long way off and that Mr. Dodd is a proven voteget­ter in his home state.

“Se­na­tor Dodd has been in the eye of the storm be­fore,” said Eric Schultz, spokesman for the Demo­cratic Sen­a­to­rial Cam­paign Com­mit­tee. “The vot­ers can see he’s work­ing ev­ery day with Pres­i­dent Obama to get the econ­omy back on track.”

Repub­li­cans also may be fac­ing a di­vi­sive pri­mary fight. State Sen. Sam Caligiuri and Tom Fo­ley, a busi­ness­man from

“It’s amaz­ing be­cause if you’d asked any­one two years ago if Se­na­tor Dodd was vul­ner­a­ble, they would have thought you were nuts,” said Kenneth Dautrich, who teaches pub­lic pol­icy at the Uni­ver­sity of Con­necti­cut and founded the school’s Cen­ter for Sur vey Re­search and Anal­y­sis. “Now all the in­di­ca­tions are we are in for a real race,” he said.

Green­wich, are also said to be eye­ing the race, es­pe­cially given Mr. Dodd’s unim­pres­sive polling num­bers.

The con­gres­sional bank­ing com­mit­tees have long been cov­eted as a con­duit for cam­paign cash and sup­port from the fi­nan­cial-ser­vices lob­bies, but the po­lit­i­cal ad­van­tage has been tem­pered as the econ­omy has soured. Mr. Dodd took a lead­ing role in pass­ing the orig­i­nal $700 bil­lion Wall Street bailout pack­age last fall, which has proved un­pop­u­lar with vot­ers.

In an­other sign of the pit­falls of his po­si­tion, Mr. Dodd was the top con­gres­sional re­cip­i­ent in 2008 of cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from gi­ant in­surer AIG, now a fo­cus of the pub­lic’s anger for its pay­ment of bonuses to traders who racked up ru­inous losses re­quir­ing a gov­ern­ment bailout, ac­cord­ing to the watch­dog group Opense­crets.org.

Con­necti­cut news­pa­pers also have ham­mered Mr. Dodd in re­cent months over his per­sonal fi­nances.

Democrats al­ready are hit­ting back at Mr. Sim­mons, re­leas­ing a state­ment Mon­day repris­ing the Repub­li­can’s praise of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, an un­pop­u­lar fig­ure in Con­necti­cut, and po­lit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions that Mr. Sim­mons re­ceived from disgraced lob­by­ist Jack Abramoff.

But in one sign of the party’s ner­vous­ness, Mr. Dodd was qui­etly given a pass to vote last week for a Repub­li­can amend­ment on a spending bill that would elim­i­nate the an­nual au­to­matic costof-liv­ing pay raise for mem­bers of Congress. Most of Mr. Dodd’s fel­low sen­a­to­rial “old bulls” braved the po­lit­i­cal heat to vote against the amend­ment and de­feat it.

Mr. Dautrich said the 2010 race will be de­cided by the large num­bers of in­de­pen­dents in Con­necti­cut, whom Mr. Dodd has been able to win over in past races.

AL­LI­SON SHEL­LEY/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

Sen. Christo­pher J. Dodd, Con­necti­cut Demo­crat, is vul­ner­a­ble head­ing into the 2010 elec­tion cy­cle, ac­cord­ing to a new poll, partly be­cause of ethics prob­lems that have sur faced re­cently.

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