Pure Horserace: Dodd's Charge

Current U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) speaks during a taping of "Meet the Press" at the NBC Studios May 20, 2007 in Washington, DC. Dodd debated on the show with former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) on what is the best solution for the war in Iraq. GETTY

Democrat Chris Dodd is continuing to call out his presidential rivals — and this time, he's naming names. A new campaign ad mentions an amendment, co-sponsored in the Senate by Dodd, that would end America's "involvement in Iraq's civil war."

Dodd's first ad simply referred to his "colleagues running for president." But the latest spot name-checks the top two Democrats in the race. "Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have changed their positions to follow Chris Dodd," the ad's narrator says. That's followed by a touting of Dodd's plan to deal with global warming — and the question of whether Obama and Clinton will follow Dodd's lead there, as well.

Compared with the recent sniping in the Republican field, particularly between John McCain and Mitt Romney, the Democratic race has looked like a campfire sing-along — remember the friendly first-name references in the party's first debate? It looks as though Dodd is hoping to change that, gradually ratcheting up the rhetoric in each of his two ads.

A more-confrontational campaign would certainly play to Dodd's strengths as a debater. It could also reinforce the stereotype Clinton faces of being too aggressive, while Obama would have to engage in verbal sparring with his opponents, which runs the risk of undercutting his image as a hopeful uniter.

So far, Dodd, still stuck in single digits in the polls, doesn't appear to have thrown the two front-runners off message. But he could be setting the stage for the next time he appears with both — at the next Democratic debate on July 23. Will the party's second debate, like the Republicans', be a more raucous affair? If Dodd sounds at all like he does in his ads, it probably will be.

But while Dodd definitely will have to take down Obama and Clinton if he wants to come out on top in early primaries, two other people — John Edwards and Bill Richardson — are also ahead of the Connecticut senator in the polls. By not mentioning them, it raises the question of whether Dodd is helping two of his opponents more than he's helping himself. — David Miller


Mitt's Massachusetts: The Romney campaign today unveiled a new TV ad that takes one of his potential liabilities head-on — his Massachusetts roots. It's doubtful that many Republicans even four years ago would envision a former governor of the bluest of blue states as a top-tier candidate for their party's nomination. After Michael Dukakis and John Kerry, that seemed pretty firmly a Democratic tendency.

Yet Romney is surging of late, and his latest ad seeks to put a positive spin on the matter. In fact, the ad opens with pictures of Dukakis and Kerry with the line, 'in the most liberal state in the country, one Republican stood up and cut spending, instead of raising taxes." The ad ends with what's sure to be a constant refrain: "In the toughest place, Mitt Romney's done the toughest things."

The ad will air in Iowa, New Hampshire and as part of the campaign's national cable buy. Vaughn Ververs


On To November: In yesterday's primary elections in Kentucky, much of the attention was on the Republican contest for governor, which featured incumbent Gov. Ernie Fletcher seeking to recover from a scandal that saw him and 28 others in his administration charged with crimes related to state hiring practices.

Yet the biggest surprise of the evening actually came in the Democratic primary, which was won by former Lt. Gov Steve Beshear. Political observers in the state had predicted Beshear would be forced into a runoff with businessman Bruce Lunsford. But by just barely topping the 40 percent threshold, Beshear punched his ticket to the November general election.

Fletcher easily passed that threshold, winning 50 percent of the vote to defeat Rep. Ann Northup. But he has little reason to rest easy. Not only does he now face the challenge of getting half of Republican voters to come back over to his side, but he'll also have to secure the support of at least some independents and Democrats if he wants to win a second term.

That said, in the midst of the hiring scandal, Fletcher looked like he might not even run for re-election, much less win re-nomination. He might still have another turnaround left in him. — David Miller


Signs, Signs, Everywhere Are Signs: It's looking increasingly likely that former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson is getting serious about jumping into the GOP presidential race. Aside from all the chatter in Washington that has been going on for weeks, the Washington Post's Chris Cilizza reports that Thompson is lining up staff.

The conservative void that has driven the Thompson boomlet shows no signs of being filled by the current field. Mitt Romney has jumped ahead in Iowa in several recent polls, but a new survey by Strategic Vision (a GOP firm) in that state shows that 51 percent of likely Republican caucus goers are unsatisfied with their current choices — and Thompson garners 10 percent of their support. Thompson appears unlikely to announce for at least a few weeks, which gives the current crop of candidates just a little more time to work on convincing those GOP discontents. Vaughn Ververs


Returning To The Netroots: On liberal blogs, Democrat John Edwards routinely wins informal polls of which presidential candidate readers prefer. But his wife, Elizabeth, might be even more popular — and on Tuesday, she may have tightened that bond further with a liveblogging appearance on the biggest Democratic blog of them all, Daily Kos.

In a posting on the site, Elizabeth highlighted her husband's upcoming appearance at Yearly Kos, the IRL (that's "in real life") gathering of the blog's online followers. "The decision was easy: the opportunity to talk, to listen, to question and to learn from the people who make online the center of real political dialogue that Yearly Kos offers is important," she wrote. "Unparalleled, really."

In the comments that followed, Edwards discussed her husband's positions on topics ranging from public financing of campaigns (he supports it) to the compromise brokered on Tuesday for funding the Iraq war (he opposes it).

Based on reader responses, the Edwards campaign has some passionate followers — and is even winning over people previously loyal to other candidates. The question is whether that can translate that into real-world results. — David Miller


Polls, Partisanship And Polarization: Yes, the blue-red ideological divide in the country is real, and increasingly how Americans line up on the party spectrum impacts how they respond to polls. That's what CBS News Director of Surveys Kathy Frankovic writes in the second installment of her Poll Positions column.

"Americans answer poll questions differently than they did 20 years ago," writes Frankovic. "We are more conscious of partisan differences, and when people answer poll questions about political and social issues, they answer in a way that suggests they know what's expected of them." Are we more polarized today because our politics is more partisan? Check out Kathy's column for her answer.


Editor's Note: Pure Horserace is a daily update of political news as interpreted by the political observers at CBSNews.com. Click here to sign up for the e-mail version.

By David Miller and Vaughn Ververs
  • David Miller

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