Sen. Dodd joins list of presidential contenders
Published: Friday, January 12, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 11:06 p.m.
NEW YORK — Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, a veteran of more than a quarter century in Congress, set his sights on the White House on Thursday as he joined a growing field of presidential contenders.
In an unconventional move, Dodd announced his candidacy on the rowdy "Imus in the Morning" radio show then later joined his Senate Foreign Relations Committee colleagues in questioning Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about Iraq.
Dodd immediately planned to travel to the early voting states of Iowa and South Carolina.
Dodd, a 26-year Senate veteran, told host Don Imus he had the knowledge and experience necessary to govern in a dangerous world.
And while he acknowledged he was an underdog compared to celebrity candidates like Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois — neither of whom has yet joined the field — Dodd said he has more than a year to make his case to voters.
"There's a heightened sense of urgency about the condition of the country. But it isn't just Iraq — there are problems here at home that are huge," Dodd said, mentioning education, energy policy and health care.
Still, Dodd's announcement underscored the challenge he faces in breaking through. After laying out his credentials, Imus told Dodd how impressed he was with the charismatic Obama — and then announced he would be voting for the Republican front-runner, Arizona Sen. John McCain.
"Now wait a minute, wait a minute," Dodd interjected. "I come on the program, I blow everybody else off, I announce here — at least leave the door open a little bit for me here. ... And I'm your pal — 14 years — you can't just walk away from me. You leave that door open a little bit."
Chuckling, Imus responded: "I'm not walking away ... I'm not closing the door, senator."
Dodd planned to travel late Thursday to Iowa, home to the first nominating caucus in January 2008. On Sunday, he heads to South Carolina.
Several other Democrats have already entered the race or are expected to do so soon.
Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who leaves office Friday, has announced his presidential candidacy, as have former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson also probably will run.
Dodd's career in Washington began in 1974 when he was elected to the House in the wake of the Watergate scandal. His father, Thomas J. Dodd, served two terms in the Senate; the younger Dodd won a Senate seat in 1980.
Dodd has forged strong ties with labor unions, advocated fiscal accountability for corporations and championed education and other children's issues. This month, he became chairman of the influential Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and is a senior member of Foreign Relations.
Dodd voted in 2002 to authorize military intervention in Iraq, but has become an outspoken critic of the war and now calls his vote a mistake. He has said he would oppose an escalation of U.S. forces in Iraq and has said Congress should consider withholding funding for such a troop increase.
Dodd was the chief Senate sponsor of the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, or to tend to a personal or family illness. He also helped rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, worked to create after-school initiatives and has introduced legislation to reform the 2002 No Child Left Behind law.
A fluent speaker of Spanish, Dodd served in the Peace Corps in a rural village in Dominican Republic from 1966-68 and has had a strong interest in Latin American affairs throughout his career. As the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations western hemisphere subcommittee, he's been able to wield a heavy influence on U.S. involvement in the region.
Although he is firmly positioned in his party's liberal wing, Dodd is noted for a willingness to compromise that has made him capable for forging coalitions with members of both parties.
His role as chairman of the Banking Committee — which oversees the nation's banking, financial services and insurance industries — creates new fundraising opportunities, a potential boost for a long-shot prospect like Dodd who must prove he can raise the tens of million of dollars needed to stay competitive in the 2008 race.
Dodd has been politically active on behalf of other Democrats, raising money and campaigning for candidates across the country and headed the Democratic National Committee from 1995-96.
Dodd and his wife, Jackie Marie Clegg, have two daughters, age 5 and 22 months.
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