Will Chris Dodd pay a political price for his role in our economic downturn?

It’s still too early to be able to make a definitive statement one way or the other (he won’t be up for re-election til next year), but as it stands now, things aren’t looking too good for the CT Senator:

In many respects, Senator Chris Dodd is more powerful than ever on Capitol Hill these days. After enduring eight years in the political wilderness, the Connecticut Democrat is one of his ascendant party’s senior statesmen, someone who endorsed Barack Obama early on in the presidential campaign and who hails from a solidly blue state. As chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Dodd has played a central role in shepherding much of Obama’s economic agenda, from the second half of the bank bailout to the coming overhaul of regulations governing Wall Street. With his good friend Ted Kennedy sidelined with brain cancer, Dodd has stepped in to help take a lead role on health-care reform. In fact, at one point earlier this year, before the Inauguration, Dodd was de facto chairman of Kennedy’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee as well as Joe Biden’s Foreign Relations Committee.

At the same time, Dodd is looking increasingly vulnerable. The silver-haired father of two young girls is facing his toughest re-election fight ever, and he doesn’t even have an opponent yet. (CNBC pundit Larry Kudlow and former GOP Representative Rob Simmons have both expressed interest in running.) In a January Quinnipiac poll, 51% of Connecticut voters said they would not vote for Dodd in 2010. “It’s the subject matter β€” people are watching their tax dollars go into institutions and they wonder when it’s going to get better and they wonder where it’s going,” Dodd says. “I don’t find people trying to elbow me out of the way trying to take over jurisdiction of the Banking Committee.” (See who’s who in Obama’s White House.)

Much of Dodd’s current woes stem from a pair of mortgages that he must wish he had never gotten. His reputation has not recovered from the revelation last year that he received a sweetheart deal on his mortgage, saving upwards of $75,000 courtesy of Countrywide, one of the biggest pushers of the subprime mortgages that have landed the U.S. economy in such dire straits. Connecticut officials say there is no evidence of wrongdoing, and Dodd, who has allowed reporters limited access to his mortgage documents, denies he got any preferential treatment and insists he is going to refinance with a different bank. “I made the mistake of not addressing it earlier,” Dodd concedes. Still, he will not allow reporters to deeply examine the “hundreds of pages” of mortgage documents, saying, “No one has ever showed as much as we have.” But the scandal has left a bad taste with Connecticut voters; in the Quinnipiac poll, 56% said the Countrywide connection made them less likely to vote for Dodd.

Anyone who lives in CT want to weigh in on this? Dodd has always seemed like a “lifer” to me. I also wonder whether the Republicans could mount a serious, sustained challenge to whoever the Democrat is next year, given the fact that Obama won 61% of the vote in CT in November (not to mention how well House Democrats did there).

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