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A tale of two Connecticut senators

I don't want to go too far with the idea that Chris Dodd bowed out of the race to preserve the seat for his party. Few politicians are interested in an unwinnable election. But then, few veteran politicians really see races as unwinnable. If Dodd didn't think there was some chance he could turn things around against WWE co-founder Linda McMahon, he's not quite the optimist I imagined. His decision, however, didn't maximize his chances of holding the seat. It maximized his party's chances of holding on to the seat.

By contrast, it's worth remembering how Dodd's Connecticut colleague, Joe Lieberman, reacted in a related situation in 2000. Lieberman had been nominated to run as Al Gore's vice president. That forced him to decide whether to simultaneously run for Senate as well. If he won both, then he'd become veep, his Senate seat would go unfilled, and the Republican governor would appoint a Republican replacement. If he bowed out of the Senate race, attorney general Richard Blumenthal -- the same guy who's running to replace Dodd -- would have stepped in to replace Lieberman.

Lieberman decided to run for both simultaneously, maximizing the potential that he would have an elected position the following November, but not that the Democratic Party would hold the seat. It's odd that Dodd's behavior here is uncommon enough to warrant praise. If these guys care about the agenda they're representing, whether they or someone who votes just like them occupies the seat doesn't really matter, while handing it to someone who will vote against their agenda matters quite a lot. But then, the Senate is an odd place.

By Ezra Klein  |  January 7, 2010; 9:13 AM ET
 
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Next: Who is Richard Blumenthal?

Comments

So it IS all Al Gore's fault.

If only he had insisted that Joe not run for both posts when he was named the VP candidate.....

Posted by: stevie314 | January 7, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad you brought this up. I really do think Dodd is not given enough credit (no pun intended. well, a little bit). I think one of the most impressive things is that while he's been in a political death spiral in Connecticut, he has basically spent this past year largely ignoring it, and pushing through serious amounts of legislation (HELP health bill, credit card changes, financial regulation, etc.)

It's also worth mentioning that when a perfectly viable Democrat won the primary and was running in '06 (Lamont), Lieberman actually chose to *run against him*. I had the great privilege of voting against Lieberman in that election, though unfortunately, it wasn't enough.

It pains me immensely to see Dodd in worse shape politically than Lieberman.

Posted by: madjoy | January 7, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Christopher Dodd is simply a much, much better person than Joe Lieberman.

Posted by: theorajones1 | January 7, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I agree 100% with the Ezra and the commenters. It's a great thing to see a Senator who can actually overcome his ego.

And it does make for a very interesting comparison, Lieberman vs Dodd.

I also had the priviledge of voting to kick Lieberman out. Too bad we weren't able to, madjoy! Still, it makes me happy to know I did vote against him! :-)

Posted by: JERiv | January 7, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

JERiv: at least we can take some comfort in the latest terrible Lieberman numbers coming out of PPP this morning: http://publicpolicypolling.blogspot.com/2010/01/lieberman-tanks.html

Posted by: madjoy | January 7, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Or you could just look back to 2006 when Lieberman lost the Democratic primary and promptly ran against and defeated the duly nominated Democratic candidate.

Posted by: redwards95 | January 7, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

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