I have a hard time, at this point, imagining Senator Chris Dodd becoming the Democratic nominee for president. While Bill Richardson seems more plausible, and has more support in polls and money, it seems to me he too is a real long shot. But both Richardson and, in some ways more particularly Dodd, have helped improve the field for progressives.
Bill Richardson’s signature issue is his pledge to get American troops out of Iraq. While he has not persuaded the top three to join him, arguably Richardson’s third to fourth place positioning is largely due to his stance (or at least his campaign seems to think so). Richardson clearly turns the pressure on other top Democratic candidates.
Senator Dodd has taken the lead on more bite-sized issues – and has done well with them. On putting a hold on FISA immunity for telecommunications companies, to hold the companies accountable for illegally violating customer privacy, Dodd was out early and made an impact, with Joe Biden, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton later joining him. Likewise, in the Michael Mukasey confirmation hearings for Attorney General, where Mukasey won’t call water boarding “torture,” Dodd was the first senate Presidential candidate (and second senator) to say he would vote against Mukasey, followed by Obama, Edwards and Clinton.
There’s often an effort to dismiss second and third tier candidates for president – and sometimes it seems justified (see Mike Gravel). But Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd have made a good case for their presence in the race. They’ve made a real contribution to policy debates that matter.