By all accounts, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd is vulnerable.
With 20 months until he is up for re-election, Dodd has yet to announce whether he will seek another term. And the five-term senator’s prospects are by no means positive — he is suffering in the polls and is recovering from political scandal. But the uncertainty regarding Dodd’s candidacy transcends his career alone; many Democrats are anxious about the political ramifications of his delay.
“Chris Dodd’s poll numbers are of concern,” Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz ’83 said in a telephone interview with the News this week. “I am also concerned about the Republicans getting a head start in the race.”
(Although none have yet announced officially, two Republican contenders have come forward saying they are considering running for the seat.)
While Dodd — the son of former Connecticut Sen. Thomas Dodd — remains the prodigal son of Connecticut liberals, a February Quinnipiac University poll showed he is losing support among the moderates and independents he needs to secure reelection.
Kenneth Dautrich, Professor of Public Policy at the University of Connecticut, said in an interview with the News this week that since only 30 percent of eligible voters in Connecticut are registered as Democrats, Dodd will likely face difficulty running in the general election.
“Dodd is a target,” said Dautrich. “While I think he would overcome a potential primary challenge because of his support amongst registered democrats, he doesn’t have the much needed support of independents, which make up the plurality of voters.”
Doug Schwartz, Director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in an e-mail to the News that Dodd’s 41 percent approval rating is particularly troubling.
“Dodd is vulnerable in the general election because whenever an incumbent’s job approval falls below 50%, the incumbent is vulnerable,” he said.
Dautrich said allegations concerning a 2003 mortgage from now the defunct Countrywide Financial are alienating him from moderate voters. Dodd allegedly received a “sweetheart” deal on the mortgage with VIP service and a below market rate because of his position as Chairman of the Senate Banking and Finance Committee.
Although Dodd released hundreds of documents to the press last month as well as an audit reported purportedly clearing him of error, the same Quinnipiac poll showed most Connecticut residents are still concerned by his involvement.
Bysciewicz, who is considering running for governor in 2010, said that while she does not know for certain if Dodd would seek reelection, she encouraged him to make up his mind soon, and announce his intentions.
“If I secure the nomination of my party, I want the strongest possible Democrat on the ticket with me,” she said. “If [Dodd] is running, he needs to announce and he needs to meet with constituents.”
While he has yet to officially announce his candidacy, Dodd Press Secretary Brian DeAngelis implied in a statement to the News this week that Dodd is likely to seek reelection.
“When the time comes, Senator Dodd will be ready with a vigorous, well-funded re-election campaign,” he said. “Now is the time for leadership and that is why Senator Dodd is focused on helping Connecticut families get out of this economic crisis and hardship.”
Though in 2003 Dodd waited to announce his re-election campaign until March of that year — ruling out a possible Presidential run — this election cycle, there does not appear to be a reason for the delay. Dodd’s campaign treasury also appears lower than most other Democratic incumbents running in 2010, with about $670,000 in the bank.
Nevertheless, State Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said in a telephone interview with the News Thursday that she thought Dodd ultimately would run.
“The Senator has not told me that he is not seeking reelection,” she said. “I believe he has not declared his candidacy because he is busy working in Washington on issues concerning Connecticut residents, where he has been involved in everything from healthcare reform to dealing with the economy.”
The Republican party is not wasting time waiting for Dodd to decide his fate. Former Republican Rep. Rob Simmons of Stonington has publicly mentioned he may run for Dodd’s seat in 2010, and CNBC anchor and economist Larry Kudlow confirmed that he is strongly considering running to Politico this week.
When contacted by the News through a spokeswoman, Kudlow declined to comment Tuesday, while Simmons could not be reached for comment.
Dodd was first elected in 1980, and most recently defeated Republican Jack Orchulli in 2004 by a two to one margin.