Dodd Jumps In

Democratic Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd became the first New Englander to officially declare himself a candidate for President 2008, making the announcement on Don Imus's radio show this morning. Dodd has been putting his plans in place for some time, but isn't getting taken very seriously -- yet. The timing of his announcement, the morning after Bush's escalation speech, won't change that, which he surely knew when he made that decision.

I think it's smart for Dodd to stay low in the radar for a while. He can't compete in star power with Hillary and Obama anyway, but he doesn't need any buzz to raise money and assemble his team over the next six months or so -- he's built that up over many, mnay years -- he was chairman of the DNC during the '96 Clinton re-election campaign, and has held a number of important caucus and committee positions. He's got big donor contacts in the NYC financial world, many of whom live in CT.

He also has already brought on board Jim Jordan, who is currently an "advisor" but will probably be campaign manager. Jordan is one of the top people in the game; he was Kerry's early campaign manager, and after getting booted from there went on to help run the huge Americans Coming Together 527 organization. Dodd also has Maura Keefe, a big gun in her own right and, conveniently, sister of extremely influential New Hampshire Dem Joe Keefe.

Dodd has an extremely impressive legislative history to lay out -- which will look especially weighty next to relative short-time senators Clinton, Obama, and Edwards. He can take credit for pushing or passing everything from Family and Medical Leave Act, Sarbanes-Oxley, Help America Vote Act, Head Start, medical and financial record privacy protection, emergency response improvements, and pay-as-you-go budgeting. His National Journal composite liberal rating is 80 -- exactly the same as Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.

Whether an impressive legislative record matters or not in this nomination process is an open question, and he's a big long-shot underdog to be sure. What he needs is a message that distinguishes himself from the other candidates, and he has until late summer to work that out.

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