- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

HARTFORD, CONN. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd’s standing with Connecticut voters continues to plunge as a new poll released Thursday shows only one in three people approve of his job performance.

The Quinnipiac University survey says the five-term veteran’s approval rate is at a career low, and that he would lose his seat to either of two declared Republican challengers if the election occurred today.

That’s even though many people admitted they don’t know much about either challenger.

Slipping below a 50 percent approval rating is often considered a red flag for incumbents, and Quinnipiac Poll Director Douglas Schwartz said the “anybody but Dodd” sentiment could be very difficult for him to overcome.

Dodd’s new 33 percent rating, a dip from 49 percent in a March 10 poll, is “especially devastating” considering he is a longtime incumbent Democrat in a solidly blue state, Schwartz said.

“His numbers are so poor that voters are looking for a credible alternative to him,” Schwartz said. “I’ve never seen a politician fall so far, so fast.”

Many of those surveyed were concerned over Dodd’s role in the recent flap over $165 million in bonuses that American International Group Inc. paid some of its employees while receiving billions in federal bailout money.

Dodd spokesman Bryan DeAngelis said Thursday the senator will not comment on the poll and remains “focused on his job, fighting for the people of Connecticut.”

The poll also found Dodd trails his two announced Republican challengers, former GOP Congressman Rob Simmons and Connecticut state Sen. Sam Caligiuri. It shows Simmons defeating Dodd by a margin of 50 percent to 34 percent, and Caligiuri winning 41 percent to 37 percent.

“It’s a humbling experience to have that kind of support,” Simmons said Thursday. “By the same token, I realize there’s a long way to go and a lot can happen, so I don’t take any of this for granted.”

Caligiuri also said he does not take Dodd’s slipping popularity as a sign to become complacent in his own campaign.

“I think I’m still largely a blank slate to many people in Connecticut, and it’s my job to meet as many of them as I can,” Caligiuri said.

Dodd is head of the Senate Banking Committee, which has become a target for voter anger over the economic crisis.

He has repeatedly been asked to address the AIG bonuses. After first denying it, Dodd admitted he agreed to the Treasury Department’s request to dilute a restriction in the big economic stimulus bill that Congress passed in February.

The change to Dodd’s amendment allowed AIG to hand out the bonuses and sparked a blame game between Dodd and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

He’s also under investigation by a Senate ethics panel for mortgages he got from Countrywide Financial Corp., which is at the center of the mortgage crisis.

Dodd, whose highest approval rating was 71 percent in April 2001, now trails behind fellow Connecticut Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman’s 46 percent rating.

Even when Lieberman was under fire for supporting the Iraq war and later for endorsing GOP Presidential candidate John McCain, his approval ratings never reached the 33 percent low that Dodd now faces.

The margin of error is 2.9 percentage points in the poll, which was conducted among 1,181 registered Connecticut voters between March 26 and 31.

(This version CORRECTS Dodd’s approval rating in a March 10 poll to 49 percent.)


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