Opinion: Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, a Senate fixture, may have a serious Republican challenger


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It’s got to be discomfiting for Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, 64, who was first elected to the Senate in 1980, long before he grew the snowy mane that is his most recognizable feature:

This week, a moderate Republican and former congressman, Rob Simmons, announced he will run against Dodd in 2010.


Simmons, 65, a Vietnam veteran and former CIA agent, was turned out of office in 2006 -- just barely -- thanks to his support for the Iraq war. A Quinnipiac University poll finds him virtually tied for the Senate seat with Dodd.

The ground under Dodd’s secure seat has been shifting for a while: First, he made a dismal showing in the January 2008 Iowa caucuses when he sought the Democratic nomination for president last year, even though he moved his family to Des Moines and enrolled his two young children in school to court Iowa voters.

Last year, revelations surfaced that he’d received favorable treatment from Countrywide Financial, the giant mortgage company he regulated from his perch on the finance committee. As a ‘friend of Angelo,’ (that would be Angelo Mozilo, the now disgraced former CEO of Countrywide), Dodd received two mortgages at favorable rates from the firm in 2003. Dodd said he didn’t know he’d gotten special treatment, but his popularity ratings were not helped.

Now, of course, he finds himself in the red-hot center of the country’s banking collapse. He may be able to take credit if Congress passes new, tougher banking regulations, but, as Naftali Bendavid of the Wall Street Journal reports, the public mood toward bankers and their buddies is sour: ‘He also is a longtime friend of Wall Street, making him a convenient scapegoat if voters sour on the government’s handling of the economic crisis.’

On the other hand, another possible challenger for Dodd is Republican Larry Kudlow, the CNBC anchor and columnist, who has confirmed his interest to reporters. CNBC, of course, has taken a rash of, well, unpleasantness lately for its failure to detect any whiff of the global financial meltdown, primarily from Jon Stewart on the ‘Daily Show.’ And Kudlow endorses unfettered free markets, not exactly the most popular position these days.

-- Robin Abcarian