Dodd Endorses Obama Former Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Christopher Dodd is endorsing Barack Obama. The Connecticut senator discusses why he is making such a public endorsement.

Dodd Endorses Obama

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And Senator Christopher Dodd joins me now.

Welcome to the program.

Senator CHRISTOPHER DODD (Democrat, Connecticut): Thank you. Nice to be back on. Always love NPR.

BRAND: You just endorsed Senator Obama, but just two months ago it didn't seem like you were so sure that he had the experience or the ability to be president. And this is what you said about Obama right before the Iowa caucuses.

Talking about the future and giving soaring speeches is very good and it's a good experience, but I don't think it's as deep as what people are looking for in a Democratic candidate that can win the election and bring our country together.

That was just two months ago you said that. What changed your mind?

Senator DODD: Well, the voters. I mean, I - you know, I'm very proud of my 26 years of experience in the Senate, but if it were only experience that people were looking for, the press conference today would've been Barack Obama endorsing Chris Dodd, and obviously it wasn't. It was quite the opposite.

And I think experience is important, but it's not the only thing. I mean, judgment and balance as well as maturity, different life experiences, and the ability to connect with people. And Barack Obama has demonstrated - and not only in the short time in the Senate, I've served with him on two committees - he has the necessary experience, in my view.

We've seen in our own history people who had, quote, "limited public experience" do a very, very good job of being America's presidents. And we've watched American presidents or candidates who had a lot of experience not necessarily be great presidents. So I think to draw the absolute definitive judgment here that only that is the determining factor is a mistake.

Now, let me quickly add here, I have nothing but the highest regard for Hillary Clinton. We've worked together. I talked with her last evening. She couldn't have been more gracious, is what you'd expect. Obviously she was disappointed. I understand that as well. It was a hard call to make. But I truly believe we need to come together as a party now.

BRAND: Now, you're saying it's time for the party to come together. Are you saying that if Senator Clinton does not do well March 4th in Ohio and Texas and in two other primaries in New England, that she should drop out?

Senator DODD: Well, that's not for me to decide. It's for her and her campaign to decide. And obviously they'll make those decisions. Nothing will be more harmful to that decision process than some outsider, particularly someone who's supporting an opponent, suggesting that she ought to get out of the race.

My hope is people will support Barack Obama in Ohio and Texas and Vermont and Rhode Island. I believe he's the right choice for our party. I've listened for 27 years to people talk about Reagan Democrats. For the first time I'm listening to people talk about Obama Republicans.

BRAND: Now, you have said in the past that you don't believe endorsements matter much. And you intimated that you might not even make an endorsement in this race.

Senator DODD: That's true.

BRAND: What do you - what changed for you? Why do you think that your endorsement does matter...

Senator DODD: Well, during the last few days, I, you know, I'm receiving calls obviously from campaigns. I'm sure they're calling everybody and asking for their help. But I asked myself, why did I get involved in this race in the first place? Why did I become a candidate for the presidency over a year and a half ago? More than that. And the reason I did is because I thought I could make a difference and I wanted to see my country do better.

And I decided that in the light of the importance of this week coming up, that I probably ought to stand up and let people know where a previous competitor for this office, someone who'd been in these debates and forums for over a year, who'd gotten to know these candidacies well, where I stood on this question.

So I don't think they necessarily make that much of a difference. But if it makes some difference here, then I thought it was an important gesture to engage in.

BRAND: Now, when President Bill Clinton was in office in the '90s, he chose you to chair the Democratic National Committee. You have long-standing ties to the Clintons.

Senator DODD: Right.

BRAND: So it must've been a tough decision for you.

Senator DODD: Very tough. And I, you know, sometimes you wish at moments like that you didn't know people and you didn't have a relationship with them. And I have. And I will continue to have. And obviously this is going to be a disappointment to them, and I know that. I - that was one of the hesitancies.

BRAND: Well, is it for you - does it come down to - because when you look at the two candidates, their policies are very, very similar. Does it come down to you - for you to who can win in the general election? Is it simply an electability issue?

Senator DODD: Oh no. No, it's not. I mean, look, electability's important, obviously. There's no - you're not going to be able to govern unless you've crossed that hurdle. So that is important. But the most important issue is - can you actually create the kind of changes America wants both at home and abroad?

BRAND: All right. Connecticut Senator and former presidential candidate Christopher Dodd, endorsing Barack Obama today. Thank you, Senator, for joining us.

Senator DODD: Thank you, Madeleine, very much.

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