CT-Sen.: Is Chris Dodd in Trouble?
Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd has sustained serious political damage due to allegations of favorable treatment in securing a home loan, according to a new Quinnipiac poll, and is emerging as a prime Republican target in the 2010 election cycle.
The poll, which was released on Tuesday, painted a dire picture for Dodd. Just one in ten (11 percent) said that Dodd definitely deserved reelection while one in three (32 percent) said he definitively did not. Forty one percent of voters approved of the job Dodd is doing while 48 percent did not.
It's clear from the poll results that Dodd's problems are directly tied to his acknowledgment that he received a home loan through Countrywide under a special program -- although he has insisted he received no preferential treatment and was unaware of his special status. (Last week Dodd allowed reporters to see all of the documents tied to the loans and said he would refinance his Countrywide loans through another bank.)
In the poll, roughly three quarters of the sample said they had heard "a lot" (42 percent) or "some" (31 percent) about Dodd's Countrywide problems and, far more troubling for the incumbent, just 24 percent said they were satisfied with his explanation of his involvement with Countrywide while 54 percent said they were not satisfied. Voters also were divided on whether Dodd was honest and trustworthy (41 percent) or not (42 percent).
Neil Newhouse, a leading GOP pollster, declared Dodd's situation dire in a memo prepared for National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair John Cornyn (Texas) and obtained by the Fix.
"Make no mistake, Senator Chris Dodd is definitely feeling the effects of the Countrywide Financial controversy regarding allegations of preferential treatment," wrote Newhouse. "The slippage of his job approval to an all-time low is just the tip of the iceberg for the Senator."
It's clear that Dodd's stature in the state has been significantly reduced over the last few years during which he has weathered the Countrywide scandal as well as quixotic 2008 presidential bid that went absolutely nowhere.
And, Dodd has done himself no favors with a lackluster fundraising effort to date -- collecting just $279,000 over the final three months of 2008 and closing the year with a relatively weak $671,000 in the bank.
But, it's also far too early to write Dodd's political obituary.
First, and most importantly, Republicans don't yet have a serious candidate in the race. Former Reps. Rob Simmons and Chris Shays, who lost reelection in 2006 and 2008, respectively, are both looking at the contest with Simmons the more likely of the two to run, according to informed party strategists.
While Simmons has met with Cornyn in recent weeks, it's not immediately clear whether he is more interested in the Senate race or a run for governor if Jodi Rell (R) decides against running for reelection (not likely).
Dodd allies argue that while Simmons would be a credible candidate, he would also carry a six-year voting record filled with bad votes in line with the Republican majority at the time.
The other major argument in Dodd's favor is the heavily Democratic nature of the Nutmeg State. President Obama carried the state with nearly 61 percent last November and Democrats now control the entire seven-member congressional delegation.
Dodd's last name is legendary in the state -- the result of his own three decades of Senate service as well as the renown of his father, Thomas Dodd, who was a major figure in Connecticut politics in the 1950s and 1960s.
Even Dodd's most loyal defenders acknowledge, however, that he is not in nearly as strong a position as he has been for most of his 30-year career in politics.
Dodd's political fate may well be decided by outside factors over the next two years. As chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Dodd will be at the center of the Obama administration's attempt to stabilize financial markets. If the banking world -- and the economy more generally -- improves, Dodd will be able to take a piece of the credit; if it collapses, Dodd could be in a world of electoral pain.
February 11, 2009; 11:50 AM ET
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