There is no question that Sen. Chris Dodd (D) has a tough re-election battle ahead of him in Connecticut.
The list of allegations and complaints are widely known. That he got a sweetheart mortgage deal from Countrywide Financial. That he pushed for bonuses for American International Group workers. That he cares more about the financial industry than those regular Joes who lost all their savings.
Also widely known is Dodd's poor showing in polls. His job approval numbers are sinking, and he has consistently trailed his two Republican challengers, former Rep. Rob Simmons and wrestling executive Linda McMahon. (A November Quinnipiac poll had him behind Simmons 49-38 percent, with a 54 percent disapproval rating.)
Of the 16 Democratic senators expected to run next year, Dodd has long been seen as the most in jeopardy.
Have incumbents come back from near defeat to win another term? Sure. Can Dodd survive? Yes, he could. But apparently not everyone is convinced.
Politico's Thrush & Raju write today that Dodd's numbers "are so mind-bendingly lousy that Democrats are quietly questioning his ability to pull off a comeback during his 2010 reelection bid." And that's not all:
A few have even been talking up the possibility that the Connecticut Democrat might voluntarily step aside for a stronger candidate, perhaps Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal — a scenario both Dodd and Blumenthal deny.
"Blumenthal would give us an immediate 20-point edge, so we wouldn't lose the damned thing," griped one longtime Democratic operative who would like to see the switch.
"I think Chris is a great politician, but these numbers are scary."
And not everyone quoted was an anonymous source:
"We can't afford to lose this seat to the Republicans," Myrna Watanabe, chairwoman of the Harwinton Democratic committee, told the Hartford Courant last week. "If the numbers are such that it looks like he's not going to win, or if it looks like he'll have a very tight race, I would prefer to see somebody else in the race."
The guess here is that Dodd stays in the race. He doesn't sound or act like someone about to pull out because he's trailing in the polls. Besides, one of the reasons he got into politics in the first place was to redeem the reputation of his father, the late Thomas Dodd (House 1953-56, Senate 1959-70), who was censured by the Senate in 1967 for misusing campaign funds for his own personal use. Tom Dodd, all but abandoned by his party, sought a third term as an independent in 1970, and lost in a three-way race to Republican Lowell Weicker. The thought of Dodd fils also being forced aside, because of ethics questions, seems hard to fathom.
As for Blumenthal, his name has been put out there for higher office for years — usually for governor — but he never takes the plunge. Some speculate that if he's thinking about the Senate it would be Joe Lieberman's (I) seat in 2012.
What do you think Dodd will ultimately decide?
Correction: Awhile back, writing about the Connecticut Senate race, I said that Dodd was facing a challenge from businessman Merrick Alpert in the Democratic primary. That's not quite the case, writes David Kuhn of Bethesda, Md.:
Connecticut law requires candidates to first get 20% of the delegate votes at the state convention in order to qualify for the primary ballot.