NEW HAVEN, Conn., 10:20 p.m. — Senator Chris Dodd celebrated New Year’s Eve at Happy’s Place in Dubuque, Iowa, with staff and supporters. Only, to a passerby, Dodd probably looked more like an average barhopper, not a presidential candidate on a major party ticket.

“In a state saturated with an international media swarm seemingly large enough to populate a nation of its own,” wrote Melissa Bailey in the New Haven Independent, “only one reporter brought in the new year with Connecticut’s longshot presidential hopeful. Me.”

Dodd may have 27 years of service in the U.S. Senate to his credit, but to the thousands of reporters who have swarmed Iowa this week, that could not have mattered less. The snow-haired senior senator from Connecticut received the support of only two percent of like caucus voters in this week’s Des Moines Register poll.

That raises the obvious question: is the end near for Senator Dodd’s presidential bid?

Chris Dodd at Yale

Marianna Mancusi-Ungaro/YDN

In an article on the Independent, veteran Connecticut newsman Paul Bass raised the question on Wednesday. In a column on Web site MarketWatch, columnist Marshall Loeb wrote that Dodd is “widely expected” to drop out after the caucus. John Marelius, a political writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune, mentioned it, too.

The convention wisdom seems to be that Dodd must finish at least fourth in Iowa to keep his campaign afloat. Unless that happens, Hartford Courant political writer Mark Pazniokas wrote on Wednesday, “his yearlong presidential campaign is over.”

The Register poll placed him in sixth place, with six percent of likely caucusgoers undecided:

  1. Senator Barack Obama — 32 percent
  2. Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 — 25 percent
  3. Former Senator John Edwards — 24 percent
  4. Gov. Bill Richardson — 6 percent
  5. Senator Joe Biden — 4 percent
  6. Senator Chris Dodd — 2 percent
  7. Rep. Dennis Kucinich — 1 percent
  8. Former Senator Mike Gravel — <1 percent
  9. That might seem like bad news for Dodd — a native of Willimantic, Connecticut, about 50 miles northeast of New Haven — but consider this: Of all the Democratic candidates, Dodd posted the most significant relative increase in support in the most recent Register poll.

    From November to December, he doubled his support — that is, from 1 percent to 2 percent.

    — Thomas Kaplan