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Dodd jumps into '08 race

While acknowledging he's a long shot, the Democrat trumpets his experience: `I know what has to be done.'

January 12, 2007|Mark Z. Barabak | Times Staff Writer

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut joined a growing field of Democratic presidential contenders Thursday, using a radio call-in show to tout the value of his Washington experience at a time of heightened anxieties at home and abroad.

"I know how to do this. I know what has to be done," Dodd said, while acknowledging his candidacy was a long shot.

Normally, Dodd conceded, his 30-plus years in Congress might be seen as a liability among voters hungry for change. "But I think people this time around believe experience matters," he said. "On every major foreign policy and domestic issue over the last quarter of a century, I've been deeply involved."

Despite his unconventional forum -- an interview on "Imus in the Morning," Don Imus' radio show with a large Beltway following -- Dodd's platform fit comfortably within the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

Speaking in broad terms, Dodd said his campaign would focus on education, energy independence and healthcare. He plans to travel to several early-voting states next week.

On Iraq, Dodd condemned President Bush's proposal to increase U.S. troop levels, saying the move was "basically taking the same policy, which he's declared a failure, and extending it by adding some 20,000, 25,000 troops on the ground."

Dodd voted for the 2002 resolution authorizing the war in Iraq, but later said he would not have voted that way "if we knew then what we know now."

Beyond Iraq, he said Thursday, "there are problems at home that are huge obviously in terms of working people -- their future, their jobs.... Regardless of what income level you're in, there's a sense that things aren't going as well as they should both at home and abroad."

Dodd, 62, is the son of a late senator. He served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic when he was in his 20s, and was elected to the House of Representatives several years later as part of the Watergate class of 1974. He was elected to the Senate in 1980.

Dodd long has been an influential voice on foreign policy, particularly on issues affecting Latin America, and was a chief sponsor of the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act.

In 2002, he played a lead role in legislation cracking down on financial abuses and requiring greater corporate transparency.

With the Democrats' recent takeover of Congress, Dodd became chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, a powerful perch from which to raise campaign funds.

Still, his fight for the nomination will be an uphill one.

Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois seem to be inching closer toward a presidential run, with their decisions expected by the end of the month.

Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who ran for vice president in 2004 and announced his 2008 presidential campaign in December, rounds out what most analysts regard as the top tier of contenders.

Also running for the Democratic nomination, or leaning toward running, are Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

mark.barabak@latimes.com

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