Big Name Dems Come To Dodd's Aid

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
As President Obama today applauded a prescription drug deal he called a "major step forward" in health care reform, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) stood by his side.

"Chris Dodd," Mr. Obama said, "has been an outstanding leader on a whole host of health care issues throughout his career."

The president is not the only major player in the Democratic party to come to Dodd's aid as he prepares for what looks to be a major reelection fight next year.

Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) appears in Dodd's most recent campaign ad. The ad features Kennedy saying into the camera, "Today more than ever, we have a real opportunity to bring health care reform to Connecticut and all across America, and I believe that with Chris Dodd's leadership, our families will finally have accessible, affordable health care."

The theme of the ad appears to set up what could be the central focus of Dodd's reelection push -- health care. While Dodd has taken up many issues throughout his 28-year Senate career, he is taking an increasingly high profile role in the current health care debate on Capitol Hill.

"Clearly, Sen. Dodd by engaging Sen. Kennedy in his ad, has upped the ante of the importance for him on delivering on this issue," Tom Swann, executive director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, told Hotsheet. The CCAG is a Connecticut public advocacy organization that focuses on issues like health care and the environment.

When Kennedy (D-Mass.), the chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, became too ill to lead committee deliberations over health care legislation, he handed the reins to Dodd, the committee's vice-chairman. Dodd's new role will have a significant impact on the outcome of health care reform -- and it may very well affect the future of his career.

Dodd has been plagued by stories this year about his questionable dealings with financial institutions like AIG and Countrywide Financial.

The effects of the negative press can be seen in statewide polling. A May 27 Quinnipiac poll shows Dodd trailing his 2010 Republican challenger, former Congressman Rob Simmons, 45 to 39 percent. The poll showed Connecticut voters disapproved of the job Dodd has been doing, 53 to 38 percent.

However, the most recent poll actually showed some improvement for Dodd, who seven weeks earlier trailed Simmons 50 to 34 percent.

Part of Dodd's recovery could be attributed to his work on some significant legislative changes this year, such as the the tobacco bill signed into law by the president today. He also co-authored major regulatory changes over the credit card industry this year, and as chair of the Senate Banking Committee, he will lead congressional discussion surrounding Mr. Obama's proposed financial regulatory changes.

But leadership on a successful health care bill could do more for his chances.

"There is no doubt in my mind the health care fight can help to change Sen. Dodd's outlook in Connecticut, " CCAG's Tom Swann said.

"I think the ability to deliver on health care really, in short order, solidifies his base, but over time, really would remind swing voters both about what he's accomplished and his ability to get things done," he said.

"This is an issue that affects not only every family but every person across the state of Connecticut," adds Jay Howser, Dodd's campaign manager. "It will be part of the debate of the 2010 election."

State Democratic chairman Nancy DiNardo said that with more than 16 months left before the 2010 election, any number of issues could become as prominent as health care.

"He's working to get things done for the people of Connecticut and the nation, and he does it well," she said. "From that perspective, (health care) is important."

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