Chris Dodd is a Good Guy

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chris dodd iowa twn.jpg
I went out to see Chris Dodd at his final campaign rally for the Iowa Caucuses this morning.
I did so not because I plan on supporting Dodd this evening — I’ll be caucusing for Obama — or out of morbid curiosity but because I thought that Dodd deserved a good crowd and to be shown some appreciation for his effort. He may never have cracked one percent in the polls out here, but his presence — and those of the other so-called “second tier” candidates — has immeasurably enriched the process.
Senator Dodd and his wife, Jackie were gracious in thanking the crowd for their support and hospitality. As Jackie put it in discussing the Dodd family’s move to Iowa earlier in the year, “I really want you to treat my guy well, but, even more important, I want to thank you for treating my children well.” The rally, in fact, towed that narrow line between the elegiac and the hopeful, celebrating the sweetness of the experience — refusing to cede that the race is all but over — but tempered, at the edges, by sadness of the all but certain outcome.
And Senator Dodd, voice hoarse and cracking, went through his pitch one last time: His experience, the landmark legislation he has authored — and it is an impressive list — and the need for a tested and experienced hand in the Oval Office in these troubled times. His biggest applause lines came in discussing his filibuster of FISA and his belief in standing up for the Constitution, a line that seem to be part of every Democrat’s stump speech. (And while I find it reassuring that the Constitution gets a standing O from the crowd, I am also mildly unsettled that we have come to a point in out political life where it is even necessary for presidential candidates to feel like they have to make a point of the fact that they will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
There was — is — nothing wrong with Dodd’s pitch. But as just one of the scrum of responsible experienced guys in the race, just having a solid pitch and a record of service and accomplishments has been insufficient to separate him from the pack.
Senator Dodd portrays himself as an agent of change, for example. And in many ways its true: he has a genuine record, be it as a Peace Corps volunteer or as the champion of the Family Medical Leave Act, of advancing progressive causes. But at the same time, its hard to get traction as the person who is going to shake up the system when you are a white haired middle-aged guy who has been in the Senate for 26 years. (And I want to be clear that I am not making a judgment here on Dodd or the rationality of the process, just reporting what I hear as I talk to people.)
In some ways, I suppose, it is too bad that Dodd has not gotten more of a shake. But the recipe for political success — as Senator Dodd himself well knows — requires far more than just having a solid record, gravitas, and being a good guy. There are certain indefinable elements of political leadership, including timing and whatever that thing is which is charisma. Obama, for example, like Bill Clinton, has charisma in spades. Hillary, as a woman, is able to send an effective signal that the status quo will no longer be what it once was just by walking into a room. Edwards has separated himself from the pack by his tireless work and full-throated battle cry. So the simple fact of the matter is that there is just not much political space left for a Dodd (or a Biden, or a Richardson, or a. . .)
I am loath to predict what will happen tonight — frankly, who knows — but I am guessing that Senator Dodd will finish well back in the pack. And even though his campaign might have come up short I have no doubt that Senator Dodd will return to the Senate and continue to serve our nation with distinction. (And who knows what else the future might bring.)
So, to Senator Dodd (and Biden, Richardson, Kucinich et al): Thanks for joining us here. Our political life is the better for it.

— Michael Schiffer

Michael Schiffer is The Washington Note’s blogger for the Iowa Caucuses and is a resident of Iowa. He is a program officer in Policy Analysis and Dialogue at the Stanley Foundation based in Muscatine, Iowa — and was previously senior national security adviser and legislative director in the Office of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

Comments

8 comments on “Chris Dodd is a Good Guy

  1. Kathleen says:

    Chris Dodd is a great Senator for the Constitution State…so it was fitting for him to make defending our Constitution his first priority. I think if he had supported impeachment, he would have soared to the forefront because it was the right thing to do and he has more gravitas than Congressman Kucinich, but he stuck wih the DLC position and remained invisible, virtually.
    He lost his race for SMJ leader to Tom Dashcle by one vote. I’d much rather have him in that leadership position than Milk-Toast Reid.

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  2. liz says:

    Mr. Dodd should be elevated to Majority leader in the Senate after this election. He is a fabulous Senator.

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  3. Dennis says:

    Like any politician, Dodd may have some ghosts in his closet, but if so, they must be minor.
    We should all admire, and remember, his stand against retro-active immunity for the telecome industry’s support of Bush’s illegal spying on Americans prior to 9/11.
    While some of the leading candidates have given mouth to supporting Dodd (Clinton, Obama, et.al.), they have yet to do so before the Congress, and probably will not when it’s time to put up or shut up.
    If Dodd could get the nod from the corporations, he’d get the vote from Americans.
    You don’t have to be a blind conservative not to see it, just an ignorant one to deny it.

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  4. Lurker says:

    Stats on California’s economy (was this what you were asking for?) Scroll down to see the comparative estimates of California’s economy (some from the CIA no less 😉
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_California#Per_capita_personal_income

    Reply

  5. pauline says:

    Lurker,
    I watched C-Span this morning and someone from Lee Newspapers claimed that Iowa doesn’t really decide who the next president will be by holding the early caucus/primary, especially if one looks at their track record for doing so. btw, do you have different numbers?
    The whole caucus is somewhat odd in that citizens are really holding a “straw poll” for those they want their district reps to vote for, who then “straw poll” for the one they want their state reps to choose, and then of course onto the national reps. No one supposedly is even bound by their “straw poll” voting and so even if X wins tonight this caucus procedure is really directly removed from deciding a president. It may or may not help others nationwide in their own primaries.

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  6. Lurker says:

    Why should Iowa get to decide for the rest of the U.S. who gets to run for president?
    This is absurd.
    We have fed into this insanity for way too long.
    Let all states hold their primaries on the same day.
    Why should California have two Senators and Delaware the same? California is the fifth largest economy in the world yet gets the same representation in the U.S. Senate as teeny tiny states like Rhode Island.
    We need to revamp this entire presidential and senatorial voting system immediately.
    At this point, and I say this as someone who is going to have to pay an F-load in taxes and who lives in one of the most populous states, the U.S. congress is rigged, and archaic, and needs to be changed.
    Taxation WITH representation!
    And I want line item tax returns — if I want my tax dollars killing Muslims for Israel let me make it clear on my tax return. If I want my tax dollars to go towards hospitals and schools in my own community (which I do) let me make it clear.
    This entire process of *voting* is BULLSH*T.
    But again, why should one small, in terms of population, state decide for the rest of a nation of 300 million who we get to vote for?
    F-ing BULLSH*T.

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  7. Emrys says:

    I also think Dodd an excellent candidate, but Democrats who live in Colorado aren’t asked for their two cents worth. He is better qualified than most of the Democratic slate and, unlike Biden who could claim more experience in foreign affairs, saw early on what the Iraq adventure really was — imperialism. Unfortunately, as George W Bush knows well, John Q Public isn’t particularly interested in a candidates qualifications to be president; rather, it is more important that he/she be “sincere,” “telegenic” or have some other charismatic quality. It’s surprising that we even continue as a country…

    Reply

  8. Emrys says:

    I also think Dodd an excellent candidate, but Democrats who live in Colorado aren’t asked for their two cents worth. He is better qualified than most of the Democratic slate and, unlike Biden who could claim more experience in foreign affairs, saw early on what the Iraq adventure really was — imperialism. Unfortunately, as George W Bush knows well, John Q Public isn’t particularly interested in a candidates qualifications to be president; rather, it is more important that he/she be “sincere,” “telegenic” or have some other charismatic quality. It’s surprising that we even continue as a country…

    Reply

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