Is Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd "Mr. Popularity" or what?
The under-fire incumbent has no less than five Republicans running against him for next year's election! Strangely, his approval numbers have substantially improved in recent weeks. Problem -- for him-- is that they had fallen so far, there was only one direction for them to go. Between a series of ethics questions raised by Dodd's relationship with the sub-prime mortgage lender Countrywide Financial and the fact he moved his family to Iowa in 2007 to run for president, it's no surprise that his constituents turned on him. He still has a ways to go: An incumbent is considered in trouble when his approval or re-elect numbers are under 50 percent. Dodd's current numbers are 43-49. That said, it's better to have numbers like that 14 months from election day -- rather than four (months or weeks or days).
But what has made this interesting is the diversity of the GOP field (there's also one Democrat looking to challenge Dodd in the primary). Former Rep. Rob Simmons was one of the first out of the gate. But as a recently-defeated House member, he counts as "normal" (as do both the former ambassador and state senator who are in). This week, however, came the two wild-cards. Both Linda McMahon and Peter Schiff aren't your usual run-of-the-mill politicians.
Linda is also known as Mrs. Vince McMahon -- as in the World Wrestling Entertainment fame (or infamy). But while Vince is the bombastic loud-mouthed frontman, Linda has been recognized as the legitimate brains and business savvy that helped create a billion-dollar enterprise. While Linda might not be allowed to body-slam her opponents, she might have just the right skill set to make it through the primary and then knock out (figuratively speaking) Chris Dodd. Hey, it worked in Minnesota for Jesse Ventura.
Peter Schiff, meanwhile, is a rare commodity: He's an economist/investment banker who's become "cool" for a rather important fact -- he predicted the economic meltdown. He's also got the financial show clips to prove it. As the adoration he gets from Jon Stewart shows, he's enough of a smart and agreeable figure that he could attract a fair amount of Democrats in a general election. He also was an adviser to Ron Paul's libertarian-populist GOP presidential run. Furthermore, he can take Dodd on what should be his strongest point -- the nation's banking and financial system. Schiff can declare that Dodd's Countrywide problem makes him compromised -- and possibly complicit in the meltdown -- while Schiff could see what was happening and tried to warn everyone.
Whoever comes through the Republican primary, it looks like Connecticut voters have a real choice in front of them next year.