Nancy Pelosi spoke. Ned Lamont got a huge and sustained standing ovation. The victories of Chris Murphy and Joe Courtney were on every speaker’s lips. But last night was really all about Chris Dodd–who is running for president.
Dodd speaks at the Jefferson Jackson Bailey dinner
Everybody who wanted one–which was pretty much everyone in attendance–was given some bit of Dodd paraphernalia, whether a Dodd shirt (CGG managed to score one of these–it’s nice!), a Dodd button or a Dodd sticker. Dodd campaign workers were visible throughout the convention center, and no other presidential candidate’s buttons or stickers were on display at all.
Friday was the night when Connecticut’s Democrats showed their loyalty to a man who given extraordinary service to the party and the state for decades and, at least outwardly, to show their support for his presidential bid.
Dodd himself spoke in the middle of the program, before Rosa DeLauro and Nancy Pelosi, and threw all of his usual rhetorical flourishes into his speech. Dodd may very well be one of the finest orators in the country–when he can get an audience willing to focus on what he’s saying. He loves to build up to his high points, and whip the crowd into a frenzy by the time he reaches that crescendo. This happened a few times during the speech: he got a big round of applause for declaring that the Iraq War must be brought to an end, and was warmly applauded at the end of his eight minute remarks. However, he did seem to fall a bit flat near the end of the speech as diners concentrated on eating.
The press didn’t seem to be taking him very seriously. Dodd was available to the press for about twenty minutes long before the dinner got underway, and at least one reporter asked him what venue he was considering for when he dropped out, and how much he spent on his hair (more on all of this from Gabe later). Dodd handled the questions with his usual unruffled grace, but I have to wonder if Edwards, Clinton or Obama would have received such rude treatment.
So that was Dodd’s big night. Connecticut Democrats like him, and they showed their support for him. But how seriously do they really take his candidacy? How many will vote for him next February? If the latest polls of Connecticut Democrats in general are an accurate predictor, maybe one in five will–unless he can turn things around this summer.
Pelosi Warmly Greeted
Nancy Pelosi ran late, thanks to her plane being delayed in Washington, and because of that the dinner itself started almost an hour behind schedule. She was given a rousing introduction by Rep. Rosa Delauro, who said of her, to applause, that “shrinking violets do not get to be Speaker of the House of Representatives,” and that she had brought “powerful change to the House of Representatives.”
Rosa Delauro speaking about Nancy Pelosi bringing “powerful change” to Congress
Pelosi herself thanked Connecticut Democrats for helping to turn the tide in November 2006, and laid out some of the priorities of the House. She spoke for about fifteen minutes.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Ned Lamont’s Big Night?
Maybe the moment that stands out the most from last night was not Speaker Pelosi or Chris Dodd, but the rousing ovation given to Ned Lamont. Nancy DiNardo was thanking all of the candidates who had run, and was mentioning those who had lost. At the end, she spoke about Lamont, who she (graciously) gave credit for driving interest in Democratic candidates around the state. Lamont received a sustained standing ovation from the crowd–many of whom had probably supported Lieberman. People started chanting “Ned, Ned, Ned!”
Joe Lieberman, of course, was not present. I wonder how he would have been received? Remember that at last year’s dinner he was the recipient of scattered boos, and that even Barack Obama couldn’t settle the crowd down.
Fourth District Candidates: Himes and Shapiro
Jim Himes had a strong presence at the dinner, as his fledgling campaign had worked up stickers for people to wear. I did get a chance to meet him, and he seemed very energetic and sincere.
Rep. Jim Shapiro was also in attendance, although he stressed that he has not yet made any final decision about whether he’s going to run against Shays.
The other candidate who had a significant presence at the dinner was Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, who spoke briefly to welcome attendees to Hartford. Is it me, or does Perez manage to speak at just about every Democratic event?
The convention center itself is gorgeous, and affords great views of downtown Hartford. I’m looking forward to the completion of the Front Street project across the street, to make the city more attractive to convention-goers.
Downtown Hartford from the convention center
CGG and Gabe will be putting up their own reports of the night over the next few days.