Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Sticking to the Message of Unbeatable Experience


Even with state polls showing hip at only 1%, Senator Chris Dodd sure isn't giving up.

Stopping at Signature's Restaurant this afternoon, Dodd was greeted by nearly a hundred supporters who had gathered in the tiny dining space. By the Senator's side were his wife Jackie, IAFF President Harold Shaitberger, and local Congressmen and Senators from Connecticut.

With eloquence and conviction, Jackie Clegg Dodd highlighted her husband's Senate leadership over the past year despite running a national campaign. Though not explicitly, she criticized Senators Clinton and Obama for skipping key Senate votes and devoting all their time to campaigning, saying, "How can you be an 'agent for change' without standing up for change when it matters." Mrs. Dodd listed off the Senator's achievements this year, specifically filibustering the FISA bill, enacting legislation to combat genocide in Darfur, and for fighting for tighter efficacy testing of pharmaceuticals on children. While candidates like Governor Bill Richardson hold daily "Job Interview" sessions with voters to tout their list of political accomplishmenAFts, few come close to the leadership Dodd has provided in the past year. All in all, Dodd's 2007 resume is tremendous.

The black and gold IAFF endorsement bus that Senator Dodd arrived in is an indication of one of the biggest strengths of his campaign. Having the support of America's firefighters' union represents not only a demographic of nearly 300,000 voters, but adds a weighty level of credibility to his campaign. The IAFF's backing of John Kerry in 2004 may have been rooted in a more sincere belief that Kerry would place among the top of the field than the chances of a Dodd election win, but firefighters have remained behind Dodd since their formal endorsement this past September. Interspersed throughout the Indianola crowd were a handful of t-shirt-wearing firefighters cheering and nodding along with the Senator.

In response to fellow Democratic nominee Dennis Kucinich's second-place backing of Barack Obama in Iowa, in which he urged his supporters to vote for Obama if Kucinich receives under 15% of the vote, Dodd refused to throw his weight behind any other candidates and instead promised he was fighting for the values of his own campaign, not the values of another. As the caucus deals that are struck between campaigns are likely beginning to take shape, Dodd's insistence on not encouraging his supporters to vote for another candidate is a bold move.

The strength of Dodd's campaign rests ultimately in his experience, a point he underscored touchingly by bringing up the issue of Pakistan and the recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto. A few weeks ago while campaigning in Iowa, Dodd said, Benazir Bhutto called him on his cell phone to seek his assistance on the situation of martial law in Pakistan and her own house arrest. Dodd joked that he doubted few other candidates received a call for help from such a high-profile figure, and that George W. Bush laughingly answered that "some general" was the leader of Pakistan during the 2004 campaign. The seriousness of Dodd's comments was immediately felt. Dodd makes hundreds of public statements every year on a wide range of issues, but it's clear from his depth of knowledge on issues, like the threat of nuclear proliferation into dangerous hands, that Dodd really knows what he's talking about. You believe him when he says Pakistan is more a threat to global and national security than Iraq is or ever has been.

It was no surprise that "I Won't Back Down" and Springsteen's "Hungry Heart" played as Dodd left the restaurant; Dodd's in the hunt with the rest of them right down to voting day, sticking to his message and counting on his supporters to stand up for him.

(all photos: 2007 by Luke N. Vargas. All Rights Reserved.)

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