NPR logo In Dodd We Trust? Maybe Not Among Voters In Connecticut

In Dodd We Trust? Maybe Not Among Voters In Connecticut

Connecticut has been represented in the Senate by Chris Dodd, a Democrat, and Joe Lieberman, a Democrat turned independent, since 1989. Only three states have gone longer without Senate turnover: West Virginia (Byrd & Rockefeller), Massachusetts (Kennedy & Kerry) and Iowa (Grassley & Harkin), all with no Senate change since 1985.

But the Nutmeg State has not seemed especially enthralled with its senators as of late.

Lieberman's travails, of course, are well-known. The Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000, his support for the war in Iraq as well as for other parts of the Bush administration agenda have cost him dearly. He was defeated for renomination in the 2006 primary by an anti-war Democrat who ran against the senator's war/Bush positions. Lieberman promptly became an independent and won re-election in the fall in a three-way contest, mostly with Republican support.

His endorsement of John McCain last year — and his pointed criticism of Barack Obama — have helped sink his numbers back home even more. His term is not up until 2012, and while that is a long time from now, few people think he is going to run again.

But the standing of Dodd, who is up in 2010 — not a long time from now — is suddenly becoming more perilous. Back in June, allegations surfaced that Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, got a sweetheart mortgage deal from Countrywide Financial; Dodd and Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo were pals. Dodd said he didn't think his role in regulating the financial industry had anything to do with getting favorable treatment. Aside from a few dogged reporters and publications, the story never took off.

Now, with the housing market in tatters, the story is getting new legs. Earlier this week, Dodd said he would refinance his loans with another lender, but he didn't answer questions that have been nagging since June. (A New York Times editorial called his answers a "less than satisfactory account.") A new Quinnipiac University poll now shows Dodd with a net negative approval rating (41 percent approve, 48 disapprove). Last summer, it was 51/34. By 54-24 percent, Connecticut responders said they weren't satisfied with his answers about the loans; 51 percent said they would "definitely" or "probably" not vote for him next year.

But that's against a generic opponent. Come election time, parties usually come up with real people to run for office. And the GOP bench in Connecticut is not thought to be especially deep. The current guess is that Rob Simmons, the former Republican congressman who was unseated in 2006, will be the GOP nominee. Dodd has not had an especially close race since he succeeded Abe Ribicoff in the Senate in 1980. And aside from Dodd's father, Thomas Dodd, who lost his bid for a third term in 1970 when he ran as an independent, no Democratic senator from Connecticut has been beaten since 1952.

At least with Dodd, Democrats still love him. That's not the case with Lieberman.