Howard Fineman uses his column at Newsweek to pump some much-needed drama into the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, but instead reveals how desperately dull their prospects outside of Hillary Clinton truly are. The candidate Fineman highlights in his look at the Anyone But Hillary sweepstakes is Senator Chris Dodd, a man who exists to make Joe Biden look exciting:
In presidential politics there are a series of concentric elections until the final one (in the Supreme Court.…). Money comes just after—and in conjunction with—the creation of buzz.
Can Dodd create any?
Unless you live in Connecticut, or followed the insider mechanics of the 1996 Clinton re-election race (when Dodd served an unhappy year as party chairman) you probably have no idea who he is. Let me tell you, briefly.
At 62, with snowy white hair, Dodd is a lifer in politics and government, an insider’s insider—very highly regarded within the visible and invisible club of the Senate. He retains a boyish enthusiasm for the old-school arts of bipartisan legislating and serious debate. The guy tends to know what he is talking about.
I like Dodd personally, having watched him for a while and met him once, briefly, but he has all the zing of oatmeal on a cold morning. For Democrats, he’s probably at the center of the party right now, but no one would know it because Dodd attracts so little attention. The fact that Fineman had to start out his description by saying, “Let me tell you [who he is]” should tell you everything you need to know about a career politician already in his 60s. He’s been in the Senate since 1974, following in his father’s footsteps, and yet no one knows who he is.
The need for Dodd is explained earlier in the article by Fineman. Hillary is a strange kind of frontrunner, an almost-conceded winner who almost no one believes can actually win a general election. Fineman cites a panel of his connections within the party — “a megamillionaire entrepreneur from Boston, an academic from Harvard, a show-biz big wig from New York, an industrial-union leader from Washington” — in divining Democratic pessimism at Hillary’s anointing. Democratic strategists are so skittish that they have tried coming up with candidates that will replace her star power with lower personal negatives, but the most high profile are retreaded losers, such as Al Gore and John Kerry.
The Democrats need a candidate who can bridge the gap between the DLC and MoveOn while appealing to centrists and independents. Dodd could probably accomplish the former with his policy initiatives, but expecting him to appeal to anyone outside of a think tank will only leave the Democrats that much more pessimistic about their chances for recapturing the White House in ’08.