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Emily Cadei writes: Dodd’s Road to Redemption
Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz calls Democratic support for Dodd “lukewarm” at the moment, and said their renewed support by core party activists is Dodd’s best shot for victory in a state where Democrats have a registration advantage over Republicans of more than 370,000. “I think the bleeding has stopped, primarily because of the work he’s doing down in Washington,” said liberal activist Alfonso Robinson, who runs the blog My Left Nutmeg.. Robinson singled out Dodd’s leading role on an overhaul of credit card companies’ practices (PL 111-24) and a bill that will allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco (S 982) as efforts that have resonated back home. Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic in the 1960's.
Emily Cadei writes: Dodd’s Road to Redemption
Dodd’s Road to Redemption
By Emily Cadei, CQ Staff
After a dismal start to the year that saw his poll numbers sink to an all-time low, Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd is starting to regain some standing with a constituency that is critical to his 2010 re-election chances — local Democratic activists and opinion leaders.
“I think a lot of what he’s doing now is mostly going to trickle down to ... the really active people, the really active Democrats,” said blogger Chris Bigelow, who writes for the Web site Connecticut Local Politics under the pen name Genghis Conn. “They’re the ones who are really paying attention.”
Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz calls Democratic support for Dodd “lukewarm” at the moment, and said their renewed support by core party activists is Dodd’s best shot for victory in a state where Democrats have a registration advantage over Republicans of more than 370,000.
“I think the bleeding has stopped, primarily because of the work he’s doing down in Washington,” said liberal activist Alfonso Robinson, who runs the blog My Left Nutmeg.. Robinson singled out Dodd’s leading role on an overhaul of credit card companies’ practices (PL 111-24) and a bill that will allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco (S 982) as efforts that have resonated back home.
“I don’t hear anybody asking Sen. Dodd to move aside,” said Robinson.
This is not, he emphasized, Lamont-Lieberman, the 2006 Senate race that saw Ned Lamont, the darling of the progressive Left, upset centrist Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman in the Democratic primary. Lieberman went on to win the general election as an independent.
Robinson was part of the active “net-roots” community supporting Lamont’s bid. “With Lieberman, you had somebody who was not working in the best interests of the Democrats at the time,” said Robinson. “I don’t know that anybody can say Chris Dodd is not a Democrat.”
Indeed, both party leaders and liberal activists have shown a willingness to rally around Dodd in recent weeks, despite some buzz earlier this year that the party might better off with another candidate.
When Merrick Alpert, a Democrat from Mystic, Conn., announced in May that he would challenge Dodd in a primary, Connecticut Democratic party chairwoman Nancy DiNardo quickly reiterated, in writing, the party’s support for Dodd’s re-election bid. And the local Democratic Town Committee in Alpert’s home base of Groton passed a resolution May 28 declaring ongoing support for Dodd.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is viewed as the leading Democratic candidate should Dodd step aside, said he is often asked about running for the nomination and “my uniform response is that I’m supporting Chris Dodd and he will be the next U.S. senator.”
He also noted that such inquiries have has been “less frequent” of late.
Making Up Lost Ground
While it may not sound like much for a sitting senator to have the support of his own party base, the approval of Democratic voters is an important first step in Dodd’s road to electoral redemption.
His approval ratings in the state sank to an all-time low this spring due to a series of ethical controversies, beginning with revelations last summer that Dodd received VIP treatment in obtaining a mortgage through Countrywide Financial, whose CEO Angelo Mozilo, was recently charged with fraud and insider trading. In Quinnipiac University Polling Institute’s latest poll, conducted May 20-25, Dodd trailed potential Republican opponent, former Rep. Rob Simmons, by 6 percentage points and just 38 percent of voters approved of the job Dodd is doing as senator, including 58 percent of Democrats.
“Historically his numbers among Democrats have been 20 points higher. That’s where he has to return to,” said Quinnipiac Poll Director Douglas Schwartz.
The Quinnipiac poll also showed that among those who approved of the job Dodd is doing, the most popular rationale was because they agreed with him on the issues. The second most popular: he’s an experienced politician who can get things done.
Dodd’s campaign aims to emphasize both of those traits in its stepped-up outreach with voters, conducting a series of events this spring and summer centered on his legislative activities, particularly his role in the health care overhaul.
Dodd is now overseeing the issue in one Senate committee, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, while Chairman Edward M. Kennedy battles brain cancer. Local observers say that issue, more so than the financial regulatory overhaul that Dodd will also oversee, is something that will get state voters’ attention.
Dodd conducted a “Prescriptions for Change” tour around Connecticut to discuss the health care system and constituents concerns. And he has already gone up with television commercials in the state, including a spot featuring President Obama praising Dodd for his leadership on the credit card bill and one featuring Kennedy, D-Mass., who calls Dodd his “closest ally” in the fight for universal health care.
Dodd also came out in support of same-sex marriage in an editorial in the local Meriden Record-Journal on Sunday, a stance that will no doubt please many left-leaning activists. The practice was legalized in Connecticut first by a state Supreme Court ruling last October and then by legislation signed into law in April by Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell .
Dodd previously supported civil unions and legal rights for same-sex couples, but had drawn the line at supporting gay marriage.
The big question for Dodd is whether, despite leading policy-making role and increased contact with voters, he can regain their trust.
The May Quinnipiac poll showed that the biggest reason people disapproved of Dodd was because they thought he was dishonest or lacked integrity. Schwartz noted that number has not changed much in the last couple of polls Quinnipiac has conducted.
“That is a really damaging number for Dodd,” and it is “a tough number to turn around,” said Schwartz.
Dean Pagani, a political strategist in Connecticut and formerly a top aide with Republican Gov. John G. Rowland, who resigned amid a federal corruption probe in 2004, agreed.
Citing his experience working with Rowland, Pagani said that “once it got to the point where his integrity was thrown into question, no matter he worked it was very hard to get the people back on your side.”
“Even the good work you are doing, the motivation behind it is in question,” he said.
Dodd’s image rehabilitation mission wasn’t helped by news stories about his vacation home in Ireland and his wife’s position on the board of several health care industry companies. Dodd has dismissed scrutiny of the latter as sexist.
Even so, Pagani said, “the Democrats right now are very likely to go back to him.”
The next challenge for Dodd will be winning over independents, 59 percent of whom disapproved of his job performance in the latest Quinnipiac poll. Independents outnumber both registered Democrats and Republicans in Connecticut and are “pivotal” in state politics, Pagani said.
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Headlines: June, 2009; RPCV Chris Dodd (Dominican Republic); Figures; Peace Corps Dominican Republic; Directory of Dominican Republic RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Dominican Republic RPCVs; Politics; Congress; Connecticut
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