Shed a tear for Dodd
The appeal of Richard Blumenthal to liberals has been that he's likely to keep Chris Dodd's seat. Nick Baumann thinks that's backwards: The appeal of Blumenthal, he says, is that he's likely to do a better job in Dodd's seat:
Liberals shouldn't shed too many tears for Dodd. Blumenthal's a better candidate, but he also has a chance to eventually become a better senator. He doesn't have Dodd's ties to Washington or Wall Street. He has all the right enemies. And he has lots of experience fighting the same interests that Dodd was seen as too cozy with. Blumenthal pioneered the concept of the modern state AG — Eliot Spitzer (first AG, then governor of New York) and Sheldon Whitehouse (first AG, then senator from Rhode Island) were just following in his footsteps. Now it's finally Blumenthal's turn.
Because I'm a sleazy Beltway establishment-type, I think this is at least a bit wrong. Legislating isn't just a question of purity and ideas. It is, at least in large part, a question of being good at the work of legislating: knowing parliamentary procedure, understanding the legislative process, sensing where your leverage is on a bill, building long relationships with other lawmakers so they'll be open to your interventions, etc, etc. Dodd, as one of the longer-serving members of the body, was also among the best at that work: There's a reason Ted Kennedy asked him to quarterback the HELP Committee's health reform bill after Kennedy fell ill. And there's a reason Dodd managed to pass it quickly and smoothly out of his committee.
Blumenthal might be less compromised than Dodd, but it will be a long time before he's got Dodd's legislative chops. And that's not a criticism of Blumenthal: He's been getting very good at being attorney general during the years when Dodd was getting very good at being senator. We tend to think about elections in terms of candidates rather than jobs, but in every other sphere of life, we tend to think of candidates in terms of the jobs they'll be filling, and that's probably the better way to do it.
Photo credit: Charles Krupa/AP.
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