Seems like anyone can beat Dodd

Every month, The Washington Post ranks the 10 closest Senate races in the nation, with the state in first place seen as most likely to switch parties in 2010. The state achieving that distinction for November is Connecticut.

We’re number one, as they say, because the latest Quinnipiac Poll gave incumbent, five-term Sen. Chris Dodd a 54-percent disapproval rating and had him losing not only to Republican front-runner Rob Simmons by double digits, but also being beaten by former ambassador Tom Foley and doing no better than a statistical tie if he were to run at this time against the wrestling mogul Linda McMahon, businessman Peter Schiff or Waterbury state Sen. Sam Caliguiri.

The theme of the poll, said poll director Douglas Schwartz, is “anybody but Dodd.â€

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All this makes you wonder if Dodd is at least thinking about not running, about accepting a Cabinet appointment or a prestigious ambassadorship from President Obama or simply announcing it’s time to go.

Probably not.

“Expect there to be increased pressure from party leaders — behind the scenes, of course — for Dodd to step aside in the wake of these poll numbers,†wrote Chris Calizza, the Post political writer who rates the races. “If he [Dodd] does back down,†Calizza continued, “state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal would immediately step in and be a strong favorite. If Dodd keeps running, it’s getting harder and harder to see how he wins.â€

This view from an outsider is true enough, but it’s also true that Blumenthal could enter the race as late as January or February and still be the strong favorite he is today. This wouldn’t be so for most politicians but Blumenthal enjoys the advantage of having appeared in mostly favorable news stories on Connecticut TV newscasts at least once a week for more than 20 years. You can’t buy that with even Linda McMahon’s millions.

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We can expect Dodd to try to regain his strength by launching another expensive TV ad campaign between now and the next Quinnipiac Poll. If the ads work and the tea bag-packing Simmons annoys too many voters with his less than subtle move to the right and McMahon or some of the others prove to be flashes in the proverbial pan, Dodd may survive. But if the poll numbers aren’t any better next time and the Republicans avoid looking too Republican, Dodd could be considering that Cabinet opening or an ambassadorship to some nice place.

The senator may already be wishing he had taken the opportunity to succeed Ted Kennedy as chairman of the Senate Health Committee and lead the fight for passage of health-care reform, which continues to be very popular in Connecticut. But he chose instead to keep his job as chairman of the Banking Committee and cast himself as the crusader battling to reform the industry that nearly did him in. Now, every day there’s bad news about unemployment and the economy, voters are reminded of their senator’s too cozy relationship with the industry he failed to regulate before it was too late.

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Back in September, when only 48 percent of the voters disapproved of Dodd, one of the senator’s spokespersons, Colleen Flanagan, wrote off the opposition by pointing out, “There are still so many people who have no idea who half these people are,†these people being candidates Linda McMahon, Tom Foley, Peter Schiff and Sam Caliguiri, all of whom are now polling ahead of or in a tie with Dodd.

The voters may still not know who “these people†are but they know Dodd — maybe too well.

Dick Ahles is a retired journalist from Simsbury. E-mail him at dahles@hotmail.com.

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