Associated Press: Green Party after Nader to challenge Dodd
HARTFORD -- Sensing Sen. Chris Dodd's political vulnerability, the Connecticut Green Party is attempting to persuade its famous native son, Ralph Nader, to jump into the hotly contested 2010 Senate race.
Dodd's poll numbers give the Greens one of their best opportunities to win a U.S. Senate seat, said Tim McKee, a state party spokesman. And this time, McKee maintains, Nader wouldn't be a spoiler -- something he was accused of in the 2000 presidential election.
"A lot of Democrats would be upset about the prospect (of Nader entering the race). But we look at it as (Dodd's) already lost the seat," said McKee, who believes Dodd won't be able to resurrect the popularity he's enjoyed over the years.
A Quinnipiac University Poll released Nov. 12 showed 54 percent of voters disapprove of the job that Dodd is doing, up from 49 percent in September. The same survey showed the five-term incumbent Democrat particularly vulnerable among unaffiliated voters, the largest voting bloc in this otherwise Democratic-leaning state.
Talk of Nader possibly entering the Senate race has heated up on the Internet in recent weeks. The Connecticut Green Party is stepping up its efforts to encourage Nader to run and has planned a rally for Friday afternoon outside the Noah Webster Library in West Hartford, where Nader is scheduled to speak at a book-signing.
The 75-year-old activist and lawyer, who divides his time between Winsted and Washington, D.C., released a new book in September, titled "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!," and is currently on a national book tour.
Nader is registered to vote in Connecticut.
"This is not about his ego or anything else. It's not really a draft effort. It's an effort to show him there is a lot of, a lot of support," said McKee, who is working with other party members to build a team of 100 grass roots volunteers for Nader.
As of the end of October, there were 1,824 voters in Connecticut registered as Green Party members, according to the Secretary of the State's Office.
Nader has not said whether he's willing to be a candidate. Several messages were left seeking comment through his publisher and Washington office.
Dodd's campaign and the Connecticut Democrats both declined to comment on the prospect of Nader getting into the Senate race. Dodd already faces a Democratic primary challenge from former Air Force Officer Merrick Alpert. And several Republicans are vying for the GOP nomination, including former Rep. Rob Simmons, former World Wrestling Entertainment top executive Linda McMahon and Peter Schiff, a Fairfield County money manager.
McKee said he hopes the Green Party can help turn the Connecticut Senate race into a national race and encourage people from across the country to contribute to Nader's campaign. He estimates they'll need to raise at least $3 million to $5 million.
"We could be extremely competitive, and we think we could win," he said.
Gary Rose, a politics professor at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, said the likelihood of Nader winning the Senate race in Connecticut is remote. But he said Nader would be a factor, likely drawing support from Dodd.
"I think that Ralph Nader at this point, he's an interesting candidate, yes, he has some die-hard following out there and some supporters but I think increasingly he has become old news in the minds of voters," Rose said.
"I don't think he could win the seat but I do think he could be a spoiler, no doubt about it," Rose added. "It's going to be very tight race."
Green Party members have their issues with Dodd. McKee said they believe Dodd hasn't done enough to push for universal health care or to withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, the party is not happy with Dodd's role as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.
"I think one of the reasons why Dodd is so vulnerable is, it's clear that he's in bed with the bankers and people are upset with that," said Charlie Pillsbury, co-chairman of the New Haven Green Party and a congressional candidate in 2002.
"The one thing that you can say about Ralph Nader is, he has been challenging corporate America his entire adult life," Pillsbury said. "He's somebody who I think people could trust and really rally behind."
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