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Dodd now hails from Iowa

Iowa is going to be overrepresented in the U.S. Senate for the next few months. It’ll have three U.S. senators living there instead of the normal two.

Sen. Chris Dodd, who normally represents Connecticut, is moving into the Hawkeye State with his family while he campaigns for the upcoming Iowa Democratic caucuses. He wants to be president. And this is what you do when you’re way behind John Edwards, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

How Connecticut feels about losing a senator is an open question.

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The Dodd family has rented a house in Des Moines for the duration to be closer to the prairie campaign scene, where Dodd must make his initial mark or face swift elimination from the Democratic field. His wife, Jackie Clegg Dodd, is moving to the Midwest too, along with their two daughters, 6-year-old Grace and 2-year-old Christina. They’ve even enrolled Grace in kindergarten.

“We are committed to the state,” said Dodd spokeswoman Taylor West.

Dodd follows in the footsteps of former Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, who rented an apartment in Iowa for the campaign duration and went on to win the 1988 caucus. But he didn’t last long after that.

Hello, Benton County

A funny thing happened on the campaign trail the other afternoon.

The Times’ Robin Abcarian was in the crowd at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Iowa where Barack Obama was speaking to a good-size assembly of supporters. He had finished walking main street in nearby Vinton shortly before, and was taking questions from the friendly assembly on a variety of issues including healthcare and China.

Suddenly, one by one, several cellphones began ringing throughout the sizable barn. Obama paused in puzzlement. The crowd looked around.

Someone shouted out, “It’s Giuliani’s wife calling.” The crowd roared.

“Well, don’t answer it!” ordered Obama.

. . . speaking of cellphones

Rudy Giuliani says he will not be taking any more cellphone calls from his wife -- or anyone else -- during speeches.

“I have become technologically more proficient,” Giuliani admitted the other evening during a conversation with Sean Hannity of the Fox News Channel. “I figured out how to put it on vibrate.”

Armey on Hillary

Dick Armey was at the center of the mid-1990s “Republican Revolution.” As a Texas House member, he was often credited as chief author of the Contract With America, the manifesto that guided the party during the last weeks of the 1994 midterm campaign. When the election resulted in GOP control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in 40 years, he became House majority leader.

Armey is retired now. And as he gazes toward the 2008 election, he has thrown in the Republican towel in the race for the White House.

While attending a Conservative Leadership Conference in Sparks, Nev., Armey offered this blunt comment to the Reno Gazette-Journal: “I don’t see any way that Hillary Clinton won’t be president. She is more well-organized, she is more intelligent” than any of her possible Republican opponents.

Happiest candidate couple

True, it may be absolutely none of our business. But as Americans go through the peculiar political osmosis of evaluating all the candidates who want to be their president, they slowly make a series of personal judgments about the candidates -- and their families.

And according to a new poll for the Ladies’ Home Journal, a majority of American women (52%) have decided that right now of the major political contenders, Elizabeth and John Edwards have the happiest marriage, whatever that means. Whether that is true or not, who knows?

But a majority of both Republicans (52%) and Democrats (58%) felt that way. Opinions about the marital happiness of the rest of the couples tended to break along party lines, with their own party members feeling they’re happier than opposing party members did.

Last month’s poll of 502 women over 18 found that the second-happiest candidate couple was Michelle and Barack Obama (43%), with Cindy and John McCain next at 35%.

The decision about the fourth-happiest couple may surprise some, even them. It’s Judith and Rudy Giuliani, who between them have been in six marriages, four of them presumably not so happy. The Giulianis were right behind the McCains at 34%.

The fifth-happiest marriage, according to these 502 women, may also surprise some who lived through the 1990s. Yes, that’s right, Hillary and Bill Clinton are seen as the happiest married couple by 29%.

Rudy’s preparedness plan

Rudy Giuliani has had a simple game plan in pursuing the presidency: offer himself as the candidate who best understands the threat of Islamic terrorists and is best qualified to protect the country from them.

In New Hampshire one afternoon this past week, he went that one better -- pledging to guard against an attack from outer space.

Giuliani was at a town hall meeting in Exeter when a boy asked him: “If [there’s] something living on another planet and it’s bad and it comes over here, what would you do?”

Giuliani, noting that it was the first time he had responded to such a concern, said: “Of all the things that can happen in this world, we’ll be prepared for that, yes we will. We’ll be prepared for anything that happens.”

Phew -- that’s a relief.

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Excerpted from The Times’ political blog, Top of the Ticket, at www.latimes.com/ topoftheticket.


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