With recent headlines bemoaning polls, and pundits referring to Senator Chris Dodd as the embattled Senator, it’s no surprise that the drum beats from Washington are beating the tune that very off the record–Connecticut Democratic officials have been privately saying for weeks, Dodd is practically unelectable and so ….
Sharira Toeplitz of CQ-Roll call makes the analysis:
The rumor mill was rampant last week with murmurs that Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), who trails Republicans in every public poll testing his re-election prospects, might be ready to announce he will retire instead of seek another term next year. Although Democratic leadership aides and those close to Dodd insist he is running for re-election and his fundraising is still strong, there’s no harm in dissecting a possible exit plan for the endangered Nutmeg State Senator.
How Does He Go? If Dodd were to resign from office (again, party insiders say it’s still unlikely at this point), most Democrats agree he would leave for a post in the administration. The state legislature and Gov. Jodi Rell (R) passed a law this summer that removed the governor’s appointment powers. If Dodd leaves before his term is up, the Democratic-controlled state legislature will pick a successor to serve until January 2011.
There’s enough Democrats eyeing the Attorney General spot so that the pressure on Dodd is really not all about Dodd. People like George Jepsen, former State Democratic party chair, have been angling for a judicial slot for years. With enough connections to the liberal wings, he could make the case that Ned Lamont could take on Linda McMahon and keep the seat in Democratic hands by virtue of Lamon’s unimpeachable outsider status.
Then there’s the whole what to do with Susan. While Dan Malloy is the better candidate to run for governor in a general election, Bysiewicz has the edge on the primary. And taking a look at when Dodd leaves, giving up the language of if, puts the race squarely into the state Democratic convention timeframe, which means enough Dems who covet a Secretary of State gig can tip the balance to keep Bysiewicz from giving up the Gubernatorial like she did in 2006.
When Does He Leave?: According to the Connecticut Secretary of State’s office, the filing deadline is 4pm on June 8, 2010. More importantly, Democrats cannot and likely will not wait this long. If Dodd is going to announce a resignation or retirement, he will have to do so much earlier than June in order for candidates to raise the necessary funds. Fundraisers familiar with the state say that a candidate would need to get into the race in March at the latest in order to begin raising a large sum of money for a competitive campaign.
Who’s More Likely to Ask Him to Retire? There are two possibilities: Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and, to a lesser extent, Sen.Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Biden has been an active fundraiser for Dodd, and even called him his “best friend” on Friday during yet another campaign trip for him in Connecticut. Although Schumer is more junior that Dodd, he holds a leadership position in the Senate and is considered to be the master of campaigns among his colleagues. Ironically, one Connecticut insider pointed out there was only one man who could have successfully asked Dodd to step down from his seat: The late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who was by far his closest friend in the chamber.
Who Makes The Ask? Dodd is the ninth most senior Senator in the chamber and his stature cannot be overlooked when it comes to figuring out who in the Democratic Caucus might be best positioned to deliver the message if it comes to having to ask Dodd to step aside (again, an option Connecticut Democrats completely rebuff). This technically falls under the purview of Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.), but it’s unlikely he alone would make the ask. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid(D-Nev.) is also not in a strong position to ask Dodd to step aside, given Reid’s own re-election numbers are about as bad as Dodd’s are.
In the end it will be Obama who makes the ask. Nothing less will move Dodd from his Senate gig, which he still thinks is winnable.
Who Would Run Instead? Most of last week’s rumors regarding a Dodd retirement included longtime state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal as a possible successor. Blumenthal has served in his current capacity since 1990, and is still popular with Nutmeg State voters. But given Connecticut’s stringent campaign finance laws, Blumenthal would start his campaign fund with a zero balance. Blumenthal has been in office so long he would have no problem raising a great deal of money — he would just be forced to do so at a fast clip.
Who Else Could Run? Money matters in this Senate contest because Connecticut is an expensive state, plus former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon has said she is willing to spend up to $50 million of her own money — a nearly impossible sum for any Democrat or Republican to match. If Blumenthal doesn’t want to run for Senate or can’t raise the money, Democratic leaders would likely look first towards the state’s congressional delegation. According to CQMoneyLine.com, Democratic Reps. Joe Courtney and Jim Himes have about $1 million they could transfer to a Senate bid. The Member of the delegation most often discussed as having statewide potential, Rep. Chris Murphy (D), reported having $706,000 at the end of September. The two longtime Democrats in the delegation, Reps.John Larsen and Rosa DeLauro, had $625,000 and $51,000 in the bank, respectively. However, if Democrats really want a money man in the race, they could look to lure businessman Ned Lamont, their 2006 Senate nominee, to swap out his gubernatorial bid for another Senate campaign next year.
Chris Murphy does tend to jump around races. But I think that running someone with practically no experience in senior politics would be a bad move. The Dems will only make this move if they think they can ensure that the seat remain Democratic. They’ll want as close to a sure thing there, and a Blumenthal Senate race is just about the ticket.