White House Hopeful Dodd, Paul Simon Tour Iowa Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), one of many presidential hopefuls who toured Iowa last week, trails in money and in the polls. But he had one thing in Iowa that other prospective candidates did not have: singer-songwriter Paul Simon.
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White House Hopeful Dodd, Paul Simon Tour Iowa

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White House Hopeful Dodd, Paul Simon Tour Iowa

White House Hopeful Dodd, Paul Simon Tour Iowa

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

He hasn't raised the most money, he hasn't received the most media attention, and he definitely is not leading the polls. Still, Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut is ramping up his long-shot campaign for president. Dodd invited his old friend, singer Paul Simon, to join him in Iowa for a couple of days with a campaign called the River-to-River Tour. They traveled from the Mississippi, on Iowa's eastern side, all the way west to the Missouri.

And NPR's Linda Wertheimer was there as well.

LINDA WERTHEIMER: The campaign bus headed west from the Mississippi River town of Dubuque and took a tiny detour to the "Field of Dreams." It's still there, straight out of the movie. The Dodd campaign picked up some little kids and played a couple of innings with the King's Knights of Oelwein, Iowa.

(Soundbite of people yelling)

WERTHEIMER: Dodd got on base but was turned out at third. He kept looking back at the rippling roads of corn behind the outfield, half expecting, he said later, Shoeless Joe. The whole trip was like that, a vision of a small Iowa town surrounded by impossibly green fields on brilliant cloudless days.

This weekend in Carroll, Iowa, Dodd opened for his old friend, Paul Simon, speaking from an old-fashioned bandshell in the town park, Dodd introduced his wife and very young daughters.

Senator CHRISTOPHER DODD (Democrat, Connecticut; Presidential Candidate): I often point out to audiences, at 63 years of age, I'm the only candidate for president of the United States that gets mail from AARP and diaper services. I am a rather broad reach…

(Soundbite of cheers)

WERTHEIMER: In Iowa, all outdoor political events are BYO chair. Iowans arrived with folding chairs and canvas covers slung over their soldiers, pick out a shady spot and settle in. There was already the promise of heat in the morning air as Dodd talked about his ideas. He told the crowd that he joined the Peace Corps right out of college and he told them why.

Sen. DODD: The simple answer I've given for 40 years is because an American president asked me to. He asked a generation of us to be involved in something larger than ourselves.

WERTHEIMER: Dodd wants more opportunities for Americans to give back. He wants to bring the troops homes from Iraq starting this evening, he often says, adding, but do it responsibly. And then he wants to turn back to diplomacy. He cites Reagan, negotiating with Gorbachev.

Sen. DODD: Democrats and Republicans, over the years, used to do those sort of things to advance the interest of our country and to bring some hope and stability to the world. This crowd has given up on that altogether. In a Dodd administration, we'll get back to diplomacy. We'll get back to decent leadership. We'll get back to caring about the world and reasserting our strength around the globe.

(Soundbite of applause)

WERTHEIMER: Dodd even tells audiences like the one gathered at the park in Carroll that he wants to raise taxes on carbon fuel to finance research aimed at energy independence. And like all the Democrats, Dodd talks about leadership. He thinks the American people in this election will value his 30-plus years in Congress.

Sen. DODD: At my age, I'm not going to do this twice. I know who I am. I know what I care about. I know what I believe in. We need to be very clear. The American people can handle the truth. What they don't handle well is people who aren't terribly honest with them about what we need to do as a people.

WERTHEIMER: And then, Paul Simon. There were four mini-concerts - in Fort Dodge, Sioux City, Council Bluffs, and Carroll. Sometimes Simon opens, sometimes Dodd did, and sometimes Simon did a little re-write.

Mr. PAUL SIMON (Singer): (Singing) Going to the candidates' debate. Laugh about it, shout about it, when you got to choose.

Obviously, I have to vote for Chris Dodd.

WERTHEIMER: In Sioux City, on a high school baseball diamond, Simon switched hitters for his friend Dodd.

Mr. SIMON: (Singing) Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

I only say this to aggravate him because he is such a Red Sox fan. But there's no way - I'm not going to be singing Ted Williams. Oh, for you.

(Singing) And where have you gone, Ted Williams? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

WERTHEIMER: Nancy Buck(ph) and Diane Kinsler(ph) at the Carroll concert said they came to hear Simon, but they liked what they heard from Dodd.

Ms. NANCY BUCK: I think it's the smartest thing that man could do.

Ms. DIANE KINSLER: I thought it was great. I mean, it brought a lot of people here that probably wouldn't have come, including myself. I thought he was quite passionate. And I was impressed by that.

WERTHEIMER: Chris Dodd is plainly loving this, concentrating on little towns and small conversations about big issues. And despite a very stiff competition, he is convinced he is right to make the run now. After a lifetime in politics, he says he has a pretty good year for voters.

Sen. DODD: They will let you know, in no uncertain terms, while they may find you a pleasant person and a decent person, they're just not going to be there for you. And I haven't been getting that reaction. If I were, I don't believe in taking a fool's errand. I'm not doing this to just travel around for the sake of traveling around. I'm getting a very good reception. And people are listening and they're asking me to come back, and they want to hear more. And I take that as a very good sign in July.

WERTHEIMER: That was recorded on the River-to-River Tour bus, which was wrapped in a giant red, white and blue campaign poster for Chris Dodd.

Linda Wertheimer, NPR News.

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