Thursday, January 11, 2007


The Early Odds on Dodd

My other home state Senator, Chris Dodd, officially announced he was running for president this morning on the Imus in the Morning show. Here is the Hartford Courant's initial take on the news and Dodd's prospects.

As the Courant story makes clear, Dodd has many challenges to surmount before he can become a credible candidate, let alone seriously contend for the nomination. To me, the biggest and most immediate question is, what is Dodd's rationale? Which is to say, why him now?

Dodd is widely regarded to be an accomplished Senator, an excellent politician, exceedingly likeable, and eminently qualified (especially given his extensive foreign policy experience) -- all of which makes him appealing.

But what does he offer that is different enough and compelling enough that will make him captivating? What can he say that will persuade donors and voters to choose him (pigeon-holed as another New England liberal) over the other better-known, better-financed, and politically-sexier candidates (Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and likely Barack Obama)?

That's a high bar to clear, and Dodd won't have much time to make his case. Even though it's a full year before the first primary/caucus voting starts, the race is already moving at warp speed, and two other highly-regarded candidates (Mark Warner and Evan Bayh) have already bowed out before even getting formally in after concluding they could not compete against the Hillary juggernaut and the Obama magic.

Dodd could ostensibly point to the Dean campaign, which showed it is possible for an unknown and underfunded dark horse to catch fire over time, as a counter example and a cause for hope. But the 32-year Washington veteran can't run as an outsider and won't run as a rabble rouser. So the Dean model is not really relevant to a Dodd candidacy.

My sense right now is that Dodd will have a short window -- probably three to six months -- to show some traction-gaining edge and grow some early money. Otherwise, I suspect Dodd's likeability and experience and many other assets won't save him from becoming another early casualty and primary footnote. Either way, it will be interesting to watch this pol's pol take on such a formidable test.

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