Party Identification Could Hurt Dodd Challengers

A piece in the NY Times makes an interesting point about some of the northeastern Democrats who are in trouble in the 2010 cycle:

So the best you can say for most of the embattled Democrats of the Northeast might be: What’s the alternative? The party of Bush, Limbaugh and Coulter, with Newt Gingrich as the minister of new ideas? Good luck with that. Mr. Corzine may be in trouble, but a Republican hasn’t won a statewide race in New Jersey since Christie Whitman in 1997.

So, in the short run, unless things completely fall apart, President Obama’s popularity could be a powerful hole card for Democrats running in a real, rather than hypothetical, election.

That is actually a point worth thinking about. The best weapon that Connecticut Democrats have been able to use against Republicans running for Congress is their affiliation with the national party and all that comes with it. The national GOP isn’t particularly popular with voters in the state (and, frankly, neither is the state party), while Democrats, President Obama especially, are.

Sure, the popularity of Democrats could head downhill, especially if the economy isn’t showing tangible signs of recovery by next year. Obama’s popularity especially could suffer, and that has the potential to hurt Dodd. However, will voters be ready to hand things back to the Republicans?

I have my doubts. 2010 is not 1994. Republicans aren’t the disciplined, focused, fresh-faced party of new ideas up against the slow-moving dinosaurs that Democrats were at the time. It will take a lot to persuade the Connecticut independents who kicked the GOP out of three House seats over the past two election cycles to take a chance on another Republican, even over Chris Dodd. If Obama is still reasonably popular in the state, he could make a strong case that he needs Dodd, a Democrat, in the Senate to help with his agenda.

Still, this is a fight I’m sure Democrats would rather not have. We’ll see just how bad things are for Dodd next week, as it looks like Quinnipiac is working on a poll.

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43 responses to “Party Identification Could Hurt Dodd Challengers

  1. IMO, an election is a referendum on the incumbent.

    The two questions are:

    1) should the incumbent be fired / rehired?

    2) is the alternative credible?

    I don’t care how popular Obama is… I don’t see that translating to Dodd.

    I think some transfers to Murphy / Himes / Courtney… but not Dodd. He’s too well-known for people to not have an opinion on #1.

    Dodd makes / breaks himself after several decades in Washington.

    Besides… does Obama really want Dodd in Washington? Does Dodd help Obama?

    My guess is that by Q1 2010, if Dodd’s numbers still stink and he refuses to retire (both likely IMO), then Obama is going to offer Dodd something like the Ambassadorship to Ireland… opening the Democratic nod to Obama’s choice… and that won’t be Blumie. I’d guess Murphy – who stood with him as soon as Dodd dropped out during Jan ’08.

    As Scoop likes to point out… there’s an advantage to sendin’ youngin’s to the Senate.

    Plus that leaves Lieberman’s seat open for other Dems… Himes, Lamont, Courtney… a state legislator, maybe.

    I just don’t see why Obama would invest political capital in Dodd.

  2. AndersonScooper

    Genghis–

    You’ve nailed it.

    That’s why we’re all hoping Chris Healy and friends are dumb enough to run Simmons against Dodd. Simmons is a Bush era Republican, older than Dodd, and most likely unelectable here in Connecticut.

    FWIW, that young guy Caligiuri, who publicly praises Obama, is a ton more scary.

    Here’s hoping Simmons’ ego is as big as Dodd’s. And if it goes to a Republican primary, where both candidates would be forced to the right — that would be a fantastic train-wreck.

    In the coming polls, Dodd v. Simmons, Dodd v. Caligiuri, Dodd v. generic Republican, — where do you think Dodd comes in at? 40%, 45%, 50%? I’m still thinking Dodd against Simmons will poll at 46-41%.

  3. No offense to you because you’re entry is very valid and everything.

    This post looked a lot better with a no comment.

    I’m not trying to be an a-hole, that’s not what I’m trying to say.

    The author of this post was right on and it didn’t deserve any additional comment.

    Seriously Tim White, I’m really not trying to degrade what you have to say. It’s all very true.

  4. AndersonScooper

    Tim–

    I doubt Obama gets involved in CT, except maybe to prop up Dodd.

    There would be no advantage in Obama wading into a Blumenthal v. Murphy contest.

    Plus, Murphy would most likely step aside to run in 2012. Thanks to Lieberman’s love affair with McCain/Palin, that’s the easy contest, and of course the reason why “Little Dick” is perhaps finally serious about throwing his hat into the ring.

  5. Scoop… what if Susan B is not the next governor… then does she run for a Senate nomination in 2012?

    Would you rather run against one person (Blumenthal) in 2010? Or run against Susan B (and perhaps several others) in 2012?

    2012 adds the Lieberman dimension, if Joe runs again. That leaves Chris running against an incumbent… an incumbent who may have only a 40% approval rating… but if those 40% turnout for Joe… a three way race may be a losing effort for Chris.

    I don’t know. I’m not running for Senate. I guess I’m just saying that there are a lot of moving pieces.

  6. If Obama is still reasonably popular in the state, he could make a strong case that he needs Dodd, a Democrat, in the Senate to help with his agenda.

    I think the way you framed that highlights the weakness of the argument. If Obama asks voters to elect Chris Dodd because Dodd will “help with his agenda,” isn’t the popularity of that agenda – and not the personal popularity of the President – going to be decisive? If the economy continues to stink for the next two years, I don’t think Obama will be the magic bullet that saves Dodd. (Of course, even in a bad economy Dodd may not need saving.)

    But the thought of Dodd trying to hide behind Obama, like some sad sack GOP candidate trying to hide behind Jodi, does put a smile on my face.

  7. 2010 is not 1994.

    It’s way to early to say that. No one saw The Thumpin’ of 2006 shaping up in early 2005. I believe that Obama’s first two years will show enough promise that it won’t be like 1994, but I can’t blame the Republicans for not waiting to find out.

    Maybe Simmons is about to waste nearly two years of his life, but maybe not. A whole lot could change. Just because campaigns have moved up to these ridiculously early starts doesn’t change that it’s still ridiculously early.

  8. I agree with Jim. WAY too early to be shaping opinions about this with such arrogance and certainty as some in this thread have. The Obama administration has just begun, and I am making no assumptions one way or another about what his popularity will be in two years. If he really screws up it would change the game.

    And most of this really rests with Dodd anyway. I hope the GOP doesn’t makew the mistake of running a back-bench lame ass against him.

  9. I think the way you framed that highlights the weakness of the argument. If Obama asks voters to elect Chris Dodd because Dodd will “help with his agenda,” isn’t the popularity of that agenda – and not the personal popularity of the President – going to be decisive? If the economy continues to stink for the next two years, I don’t think Obama will be the magic bullet that saves Dodd. (Of course, even in a bad economy Dodd may not need saving.)

    Dodd doesn’t need Obama to win an election in CT. After all, if you remember, Obama came to CT for Lieberman before the primary and he still lost. Granted, Obama wasn’t president at the time but he was by far the most popular figure in the party then and campaigning with him during the ’06 election cycle was more or less gold.

    To me, Dodd’s re-election comes down to three things:

    1. Who runs against him – some formidable names have been floated in the past few weeks. I think most people who follow politics agree Simmons could give Dodd a run for his money. Larry Kudlow and the Ron Paul guy have no name recognition and, Countrywide or no Countrywide, it takes a lot to beat an incumbent.

    2. How the economy turns out – how the national economy pans out over the next two years will have implications in every race in 2010, not just Dodd’s. If things get better and Obama pulls us out of the recession, then the Democrats will be able to paint Republicans as the party of doubt who were wrong. Republicans can say “I told you so” if things continue to be this bad. The Democrats will sink or swim in 2010 based on the economy.

    3. Can Dodd convince voters he didn’t do anything wrong – The Countrywide mini scandal was the first thing that hurt Dodd’s longstanding popularity and any subsequent rise in popularity will come if he can convince people he didn’t really know what was going on. As a powerful incumbent with a national profile, Dodd will fundraise like crazy and spend tons of money to convince people of this. His ability to distance himself from the scandal will be either easier or harder depending on what happens with the above two points.

    I know a lot of people on here get worked up over Dodd’s re-election. Republicans feel he is vulnerable for the first time and think he can be beat. Democrats worry that he can be beat and want to replace him with someone like Chris Murphy. But Dodd is not going anywhere – he is going to run for re-election and I’m fairly confident he will win re-election. A lot can happen between now and then but my suggestion to Democrats is to get behind Dodd. Murphy will get his day soon enough and I’ll be 100% behind him. But encouraging a primary will hurt his career and split the party on a Senate race that will likely be something we shouldn’t be worrying about in the first place. Focus on the governor’s race.

  10. Obama will coddle Dodd as long as Dodd keeps writing legislation to give money to ACORN.
    But now that Dodd and Schumer have links to the Madoff scandle, who knows, maybe CT won’t forget what Dodd is really all about.

  11. Bruce Rubenstein

    I wouldnt count Dodd out by any circumstances and he has some time to rebuild his image.

    Perhaps the toughest Repub for Dodd would be either Sam Caliguiri or Rob Simmons…I suspect Caliguiri will get the nod as rumor has it, Simmons and Rell arent that close anymore…..or if Dodd resigns, prolly against Blumie as I dont see Murphy or Joey giving up their fairly sure seats for an “iffy” primary shot. Then the AG race would be interesting with perhaps 4-6 vying for it.

  12. I wouldnt count Dodd out by any circumstances and he has some time to rebuild his image.

    I agree – and I suspect we both can recall Nixon in 1960 when he was considered “dead”.

  13. My fellow Americans, I must speak unequivocally and with great conviction: I am NOT dead!

  14. I hope the GOP doesn’t makew the mistake of running a back-bench lame ass against him.

    Naaah – I’m absolutely NOT running.

    Sam or Simmons could both do a job on Dodd or anyone else; I like them both – but Caligiuri brings a level of intensity in all he does that is close to super-human.

    I’d put money on either one; but I’d bet the whole farm on Sam; and unlike most I’ve been watching him for over 22 years – back when he was “Sam who?” and he was a volunteer campaign worker college kid.

  15. I’d put money on either one; but I’d bet the whole farm on Sam; and unlike most I’ve been watching him for over 22 years – back when he was “Sam who?” and he was a volunteer campaign worker college kid.

    Who outside of his district has ever heard of Sam Caligiuri? Why wouldn’t you Republicans want Simmons – at least he has some statewide name rec.

  16. Who outside of his district had ever heard of Chris Murphy? Caligiuri is a strong, hard working candidate who will stand out as time passes. He is a better choice than Simmons, and if Dems don’t realize that the vote will be about Dodd, not about Rush Limbaugh and national GOP, they will lose one of the safest seats in the nation. If Dodd stays in, and D’s don’t oust him themselves, he is finished in a general election.

  17. It will be interesting to watch the next few Q polls. If his numbers hold where they are, he can throw a 10m campaign together that can get him to 50% +1. The interesting point is if they keep dropping.

    At what number does an ambitious dem throw his or her hat in the ring for the party nod against Dodd? If Dodd hits the high 20’s its not hard to imagine.

    I can’t see Blumenthal doing it, not his style. Same with any of the Congressional delegation, they are all too close. But I could see a younger legislator going at it if he or she had nothing to lose. They couldn’t get it, but it may weaken Dodd coming out of the gate.

    Also at what number does Dodd not run to avoid because its too risky. He has rebuilt the family name (despite the recent hit), will he want to risk it again?

  18. Who outside of his district has ever heard of Sam Caligiuri? Why wouldn’t you Republicans want Simmons – at least he has some statewide name rec.

    Nothing wrong with Rob.

    Do you live in the 16th?

    You’ve heard of Caligiuri, right?

    You might recall that Sam was the fellow that raised more cash than any previous CT senate race in history (over 200K) in his 1st campaign and left nothing to chance.

    The 16th covers all of Wolcott, Southington, a big chunk of Waterbury and a piece of Cheshire.
    One of the Democratic Town Chairs in one of those towns once said of Sam; “I’ve never seen a more honest, ethical guy in politics in my life…”

    As the Waterbury Mayor was being led of to jail Caligiuri was in a hospital recover room following knee surgery.
    He was awakened with; “we have good news and bad news; the operation went fine, but you’re the acting mayor of Waterbury…”

    Caligiuri stepped up, did the job and kept politics out of it by announcing almost right away that he would NOT be a candidate for mayor.

    How many Republicans can carry a major CT city in a statewide election?
    That’s a lot of votes.

    He can undoubtedly raise cash by the bushel.
    (Dodd will still out raise him, but Dodd will get less bang for the buck out of his efforts as he’ll rely more on paid staff than volunteers, while Caligiuri can count on the grass roots people to work their tails off as if on a mission.)

    Caligiuri will have his entire campaign laid out, flow-charted, completely diagrammed (and with Power Point presentations available) before he even announces …..if he announces.

    1st generation American, deep thinker, long term planner; no mistakes.

  19. You’ve heard of Caligiuri, right?

    Yes but I also have an unhealthy obsession with politics like the other 20 people who come on this blog.

    If I was a Republican, I would dig what you said about him. He seems like a stand up guy.

  20. Who outside of his district had ever heard of Chris Murphy? Caligiuri is a strong, hard working candidate who will stand out as time passes. He is a better choice than Simmons, and if Dems don’t realize that the vote will be about Dodd, not about Rush Limbaugh and national GOP, they will lose one of the safest seats in the nation. If Dodd stays in, and D’s don’t oust him themselves, he is finished in a general election.

    It’s all about Rush. He is, after all, the voice of the GOP….

  21. Also, good politico article on Dodd and his (re)new(ed) populist message…

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0309/19572.html

    I can’t help thinking that a stronger populist message, especially in these times, would be for a Dem to go after him on the home mortgage and the oversights as banking chair/presidential candidate.

    It’s hard to imagine it happening, but then again a lot of people didn’t see a challenge coming to the former democratic vice presidential candidate either. Of course its a rough parallel and its safe to say the party faithful aren’t as angry (yet) about what led to this crisis as they were/are over the war.

    Also, I just don’t think that message works for a Republican candidate. I can’t think of a populist Republican since Teddy Roosevelt that could believably sell it.

  22. ACR & Woody,

    “Who outside of his district had ever heard of Chris Murphy? Caligiuri is a strong, hard working candidate who will stand out as time passes.”

    I could not agree with you guys more……..Sam has been a breath of fresh air. The only down side to him running for Dodd’s job is we lose him in the 16th. But the improvement for the rest of Connecticut would make this one local sacrifice we should be happy to make.

  23. AndersonScooper

    I thought Healy wanted Simmons. Will we see a devastating GOP primary? One that would force both candidates to veer right?

    Let’s hope so!

  24. I could not agree with you guys more……..Sam has been a breath of fresh air. The only down side to him running for Dodd’s job is we lose him in the 16th. But the improvement for the rest of Connecticut would make this one local sacrifice we should be happy to make.

    Want to help?

  25. I thought Healy wanted Simmons.

    There’s nothing wrong with Rob Simmons and neither he nor Caligiuri has announced anything as of right now.

  26. Weicker Liker

    Didn’t Sam Caligiuri have an ethics issue while serving as a legal counsel with the Governor’s office?

  27. ACR,

    Want to help?

    Let’s first get him to announce ASAP, then let’s talk…….. We need more people like this guy, and less like the same old same old, we already have too many of.

  28. And most of this really rests with Dodd anyway. I hope the GOP doesn’t makew the mistake of running a back-bench lame ass against him.

    If Simmons is the lame ass of whom you are speaking, I am with you.

  29. Tim White… wow. Obama invested political capital in LIEberman, even after he left the Democratic party, you don’t think he’ll invest it in Dodd, an elder statesman whose state voted for Obama with over 60%?

    And – I have no doubt that Sen. Caligiuri is a conservative, planning, smart, stand up person. But a Waterbury Republican challenging Dodd? I think that profile takes ethics out of the race (At least as far as voter perception goes.) Leaving ideas – continue President Obama’s agenda, or run on whatever ideas (can someone articulate any of the Republicans’ platform today, and how it’s different than the disastrous policies of the last 8 years?) Sen. Caligiuri presents.

    I also think it’s way too early for Rep. Murphy to think about the Senate – he’s only been in the house since 2007. No Dem will primary Sen. Dodd.

    Finally, everyone does mention that incumbents tend to have the advantage in election. I think that’s especially true here in the “land of steady habbits.” It will take a lot for Sen. Dodd to lose that seat, as long as he’s still working to hold on to it.

  30. “It will take a lot for Sen. Dodd to lose that seat, as long as he’s still working to hold on to it.”

    Well if there is a silver lining here it is that it seems clear to Dodd that for once he may actually have to work to keep his job.

    The market is down at this point another 250 points today. We all lose if this continues no matter what our political persuasion is. It’s been a continued free fall that hasn’t slowed a bit since we changed administrations.

    IMO most Americans accept that President Obama has inherited a mess. But by next election it will be seen as his and the Democratically controlled Congress. If a year and a half from now things are not far better than they are now, no incumbent will be safe to be re elected, even here in “the land of steady habits” esp. someone with as much baggage as Dodd has.

    It really is past time for him to go. Someone mentioned possibly ambassador to Ireland? How about ambassador to Antarctica?

  31. scanman1722

    It really is past time for him to go. Someone mentioned possibly ambassador to Ireland? How about ambassador to Antarctica?

    You’re right when you say Dodd is actually going to have to work for his re-election next time around. This, IMO, is always a good thing. But what rarely gets mentioned on here and elsewhere is the importance of Dodd’s seniority to our state. Lieberman has zero pull with the Dem caucus post his McCain lovefest. Dodd, on the other hand, is the 10th most senior member of the Senate. He is the chairman of one of the most powerful (especially in these difficult economic times) committees. And, whether the economy goes up on down between now and 2010, he figures to be a major player in whatever happens.

  32. From Bloomberg today:

    Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn told the Senate panel today that revealing the names of AIG’s counterparties would make companies less likely to do business with any recipient of government aid, risking further turmoil at the insurer and financial markets.

    “I don’t consider that an adequate” response, “to put it mildly,” Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, told Kohn at the hearing. “The public is deeply, deeply troubled.”

    Shelby told the Fed vice chairman that “your answer here is very disturbing.”

    “People want to know what you’ve done with this money,” he said.

    Kohn said the Fed wouldn’t reveal the counterparties in Maiden Lane III, a company formed by the central bank to purchase collateralized debt obligations on which AIG’s financial products unit had written credit-default swaps.

    “The Fed and the Treasury can be secretive for a while, but not forever,” Shelby said.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=washingtonstory&sid=aG0_2ZIA96TI

  33. sry bout the formatting… it’s always problematic for me recently.

  34. anyway… Dodd has an opportunity to do the right thing – improve transparency… and he could do it in a bipartisan manner… BUT

    To do so creates the classic Legislative vs. Executive battle… an arena in which the GOP failed miserably as they were little more than a Rubber Stamp Congress.

    I recommend Dodd draft legislation requiring transparency at the Fed… and he could do it with Shelby OR simply join Ron Paul in his demands for transparency / audit at the fed. And FWIW, just yesterday Bernie Sanders slammed Bernanke for the opacity of the Fed.

  35. But the big issue remains…

    Will Dodd and the Dem congress actually require Obama to shed light on the Fed? Or will the Dems follow the GOPs lead in rubber stamping their own party’s Chief Executive? Or something else?

  36. What I like about the comments from Dodd, Shelby, Sanders and Paul is…

    there’s a potential for jumpstarting a national dialogue on our long neglected monetary policy.

  37. and you think Caligiuri (or Simmons), as a freshman senator in the minority party, has the ability to a) get on that committee b) do any of that reform you’re talking about c) get any attention paid to him whatsoever?

    I do agree that politicians should have to work for reelection. Senators are the worst since there are 6 years between their elections.

    I also think it’s problematic that so many senators are in office well into their 80s and 90s, when in most other (less stressful or consequential) jobs, people have long retired.

  38. If Dodd’s in the general, I’ll vote for him but I’d rather see him announce his retirement and soon. I don’t think there’s any chance of that happening however.

    Despite everything I have to think he would be the odds on favorite to win. Any Republican would have to run a very good race to have a chance. But considering his presidential run, his pathetic handling of his mortgage mess and his ego, Dodd’s biggest challenge in a close race will be fatigue within the party. Granted it’s hard to compare running every six years to running every two but at this point this reminds me a little of Sam Gedjensen. You can only play defense for so long.

  39. Didn’t Sam Caligiuri have an ethics issue while serving as a legal counsel with the Governor’s office?

    No, you’re confusing him with an cable network researcher in DC.

    New guys at the NRCC won’t be taking your calls for long by the way.

  40. scanman1722,

    “But what rarely gets mentioned on here and elsewhere is the importance of Dodd’s seniority to our state. ”

    I don’t disagree with the importance the senority you mention plays in how this game is played. I do submit however that after so many years of “service” it is well past time we allow someone else (from either party) to actually do more for this state and country than to just acquire seniority.

  41. Weicker Liker

    Thats funny. I was just in their offices tonight!!!

    One of the “New Guys” gave me a nice tour.

  42. I wish the seniority system was eliminated.

    It makes people such as Byrd and McConnell important. And who can forget 40-year member Ted “I told him to retrieve his couch seven years ago!” Stevens?

  43. Seniority means influence.

    Dodd could use that influence on increasing transparency at The Fed and Treasury. However if, at this point, he fails to make it happen in a meaningful way… I will likely conclude that the Dem Congress is no better than the GOP Rubber Stampers… it will be another bunch of feckless legislators who kowtow to the executive.

    I’ll have to see what happens.

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