The media reported today that Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd was heading down to Florida to do his first appearance as a potential presidential candidate.
Dodd, Connecticut's 'other' senator, was quoted in the state newspapers in May as saying he was considering a run for the top spot. Plenty, and I mean plenty, of knowledgeable political commentators reacted with a ho-hum, and immediately began writing him off. They then turned their attention to Joe Lieberman, Connecticut's other 'other senator,' who is under the harsh glare of the media spotlight for having the audacity to support the war in Iraq.
I disagree with those who have written Dodd off, and I think it is more than a little bit possible that once the August Democratic primary and November elections are over, it wouldn't be a bad idea to get back in touch with Sen. Dodd and see how he's doing. Here's why.
A few weeks before Dodd's May announcement first in the Connecticut, and then national media, I had occasion to attend an award ceremony featuring the senator at an aerospace manufacturing company. Dodd had been instrumental in getting the firm a decent-sized government contract to manufacture aircraft parts, and a state consortium of aerospace manufacturers wanted to thank him for his efforts on their behalf.
The event was well attended by the media, and a huge contingent of aerospace workers, many of them blue-collar machinists. I expected Dodd to give a run of the mill thank you speech for the award and spend a few minutes hitting on the venerable work ethic of Connecticut's manufacturing industry.
Instead, what we got was a roof-raising, barn-burning campaign speech that had the attendees on their feet repeatedly, clapping wildly and cheering with unabashed enthusiasm.
Afterward, I approached Dodd's Chief of Staff, with whom I have been somewhat acquainted for more than a decade, and quietly asked, "Did I just hear a stump speech?"
I received only a barely concealed smile in return. I found out later that a colleague had approached Dodd himself at the same time, and asked the same question, getting the same response. We concluded that Dodd definitely was running for president.
I bring this up for a reason. I had shared a podium with the senator at a rally for veterans' issues about a decade earlier and had heard him speak then with the same thunder and enthusiasm. He definitely is a man who can reach out to a crowd and hold them mesmerized, except for when he wants them to erupt in approval.
It occurred to me that this talent will work well for him as the national Democrats rush head-long to self-destruction with their culture of doom and gloom. They never have anything positive to say about anything or anyone who isn't part of their in-crowd, and they are so hell-bent on making George Bush's life miserable that they can't see the only people they are hurting are the ones looking back at them from their mirrors.
But then along comes Dodd, who will criticize the president when it suits him, but just as easily will vote with the majority when he thinks it is the right thing to do. The thing about Dodd is, he has so much power, so much seniority and so much confidence, that he can't be cowed into echoing the party line by the various factions vying for power within the Democratic National Committee.
Now, normally, that might not get him many points with the party power structure. But it is a long way to 2008 and who knows what will happen between now and then?
One thing is certain. If you put Chris Dodd on a stage with John Kerry on one side, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton on the other, all required to address a national audience, Dodd is going to hammer them. If he gives a speech similar to the ones I have seen him deliver, then Gore's buffoonery, Kerry's pontificating, and Hillary's shrillness will make him look like a savior.
Dodd has the capability, the knowledge of issues, the breadth and depth to make a huge impact on disaffected Democrats and independents alike. Some political commentators may say I am full of it. But then, some of those same commentators had Howard Dean chosen to be the Democratic candidate last time, and then Kerry to win by a wide margin.
Maybe I am full of it. But then, I have been to the countryside and conversed with the faithful, and I have seen a possible future for the Democratic Party. It looked a lot like Chris Dodd.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006