Democrats exiting the sinking ship? Part 12: Sen Chris Dodd 

It looks like a Torricelli move: Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd is announcing that he will not run for reelection this year. This has the look of a not very voluntary decision. Dodd has been running behind consistently  in the polls when matched against former Republican Congressman Rob Simmons and World Wrestling executive Linda McMahon.

Chris Dodd was first elected to the House in 1974 and to the Senate in 1980; he has never had a difficult reelection year before and is in his 36th year of representing Connecticut in Congress. He’s a classic example of the politician who is in no trouble when his state is tilted toward his party and voters don’t know much about what he is doing. But when they get more information, his popularity collapses.

More information in Dodd’s case include his favorable “Friend of Angelo” Countrywide mortgage, the cushy deal he got on purchasing a house in Ireland, his spending much of calendar year 2007 running a hopeless campaign for president in Iowa (he even enrolled his child in an Iowa school), his role as Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee in the years when the financial industries collapsed.

When all Connecticut voters knew about him was that he was a Democrat, an incumbent whose father had served in the Senate, a cheerful and good-humored man, he was politically unbeatable. When they learned these other things, he was through.

I have thought that Dodd was dead meat in 2010; other Democrats evidently reached that conclusion and pressed it on him, and now after what I expect were some tough conversations he is out. He turns 66 this year and while presumably he can make some money as a Washington lobbyist and might qualify for some appointment in the Obama administration (but ambassador to Ireland is already taken), but he has been in public office since he was 30 years old and has precious little experience in private life.

The obvious Democratic candidate for his Senate seat is Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who has won heaps of good publicity on various issues over the years, but who has flinched away from running for governor against popular Republican incumbents and hasn’t had an open-seat opportunity to run for the Senate in his entire career.

On paper Blumenthal looks formidable; it’s another question of how he’ll do when the Democratic party and the Obama/Democratic project to make America into a Western European-style welfare state is unpopular with voters. Democratic leaders muscled Bob Torricelli out of the New Jersey Senate race in September 2002, and got a compliant state Supreme Court to allow them to name another candidate (78-year-old former Senator Frank Lautenberg) in his stead despite lack of any state law authorizing that switch. Connecticut and national Democratic leaders seem to have pounced this year in January and can now nominate Blumenthal in regular order. But will the voters go along with this switch?

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Michael Barone

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