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Chris Dodd for U.S. President?
[Analysis] Connecticut senator suffers from lack of press
Jeremy Jacquot (jjacquot)     Print Article 
Published 2007-04-29 15:36 (KST)   
Even keen observers of the pre-primary campaigning process would be forgiven for thinking the Democratic field basically boils down to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. After all, save for the occasional piece detailing specific candidate announcements or fund raising figures, all the oxygen in campaign journalism has been consumed by the internecine squabbling between the three front-runners, even at this early stage.

The tenuous rivalry between Hillary Clinton and rising star Barack Obama has already captured the brunt of the national media's attention and has spawned an endless stream of breathless news reports and editorials depicting the fight as the new clash of the titans.

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With more stories being aired about inconsequential issues such as John Edwards' haircuts, as opposed to his actual policy proposals, by a media landscape hungry to fill significant chunks of its 24-hour news cycle with vapid material, it is no surprise then that second and third tier candidates have received little to no attention.

Chris Dodd, the senior senator from Connecticut and one of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's top lieutenants, has particularly been chastened by the lack of coverage for his presidential campaign and has suffered the consequences, still registering at a measly one percent level of support in most national polls despite a healthy inflow of cash from contributors ($9 million).

As Congressional Quarterly's Greg Giroux noted in a recent article, raising this amount of money in the first quarter of a presidential election cycle was unheard of a few years ago and would then certainly have garnered more critical attention from a political punditocracy obsessed with numbers.

Yet faced with the behemoth candidacies of Obama and Clinton, who have both raised more than $20 million, and agonizingly low name recognition, "recognized by just one or two -- people, not percentage points -- in a recent survey" completed in late January according to Giroux, Dodd faces a very uphill battle.

This despite a lengthy career in the U.S. Congress, having spent a combined 33 years in the House of Representatives and Senate, and positions on the environment, Iraq and other issues that have placed him well within the liberal wing of his party.

After being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Connecticut's second congressional district in 1974, where he served three terms on the House Select Committee on Assassinations, he ascended to the Senate in 1980 and has since served five consecutive terms.

During his tenure in the Senate, Dodd authored or co-sponsored several important pieces of legislation including the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit reduction bill, the Family and Medical Leave Act, which required employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to their employees to take care of their children and relatives, and the Help America Vote Act, which was enacted in the wake of the contested 2000 election to ensure that every citizen had the right to vote and have that vote counted.

He has widely been linked to efforts to improve childhood education, earning the distinction of being named "Senator of the Decade" by the National Head Start Association, and to expand access to affordable health care.

Alongside Senators Feingold, Leahy and Menendez, Dodd introduced the Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007 to reverse the more detrimental effects of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, including its repeal of habeas corpus and abstention from the Geneva Convention provisions.

He currently serves as the chairman of several committees in the Senate, including the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, and Narcotics.

In an effort to build momentum for his fledgling campaign and gain wider grassroots support, Dodd has recently staked positions that have put him well to the left of his rivals, becoming the first candidate to prominently support the Feingold-Reid legislation that would set a timetable to end the war by March 31, 2008 and coming out in favor of a carbon tax to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

While he still lacks the high name recognition of his former junior colleague in the Senate, Joe Liebermann (I-CT), he recently garnered several positive reviews for his performance in the South Carolina presidential debate and has since benefited from a higher level of exposure and scrutiny (though he and his rivals were all overshadowed by the rambunctious and spirited antics of former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel).

With the first primary still several months away, there is enough time for one or more of his fellow candidates to drop out or to be forced out by a high profile gaffe. Dodd still has a chance of eking out a respectable showing if he continues stoking support among the more liberal elements of the party by assuming specific, disciplined policy stands that help distinguish him from the rest of the field.

Having said that, however, it is clear that the odds of his mounting a successful presidential bid are dim, if not insurmountable, especially given the high wattage bids of candidates like Clinton, Obama and Edwards. If nothing else, he should make an excellent running mate.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Jeremy Jacquot

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