Dodd Weighs Run in '08

Just 13 months before the Iowa caucus kicks off the official drive to the Democratic nomination for president, one potential candidate for the nod stated his case in Kirkland House this Friday.

Senator and possible nominee Christopher J. Dodd, D.-Conn., fielded questions from about 350 spectators during the first leg of “Conversations with Candidates.” The series, hosted by the Harvard College Democrats, has at least four more potential presidential nominees lined up, said Dems Vice President Harlan M. Piper ’08.

Piper declined to specify which candidates.

While Dodd has not yet officially declared his candidacy, he did offer that he is “giving some serious consideration to being the Democratic candidate in 2008.”

The wide-ranging forum touched on issues spanning from American energy policy, to the war in Iraq, to the recent national elections—which Dodd warned against calling “a ringing endorsement of Democrats.”

Instead, he likened the 110th Congress to a “second audition.”

“If this had been some variation on a parliamentary system, I think [the voters] might have voted everyone out,” he said.

“We’ve been given an opportunity here, and the people say ‘We want a change in direction and a change in tone.’”

In an interview with The Crimson, Dodd said his comparatively low national profile, combined with his extensive political experience, could be an asset on the campaign trail—but that he would keep an open mind about his prospects.

“I don’t have a tin ear—I think I know the difference between courtesy and commitment,” he said.

“The dominant issue for me is: ‘Do I bring something special to this?’, ‘Do I bring a special experience?’—and ‘Am I connecting with people?’”

Dems President Brigit M. Helgen ’08 said the forum’s structure—10 minutes of openings remarks followed by 50 minutes of questions from the audience, was geared toward making the event as interactive as possible.

“We’re very specific,” Helgen said.

“Don’t give a stump speech, don’t give a policy run-through.”

The series, which before the 2004 race brought every contender for the Democratic nomination to Harvard, gives students a chance to decide how they want to vote and how involved they want to be in 2008.

“From a candidate’s perspective, when they’re thinking about New Hampshire,” where one of the first primary elections takes place, “they’re very aware that we are less than an hour away,” Helgen said of the allure of speaking in Cambridge, where there is a fertile base of potential campaign workers.

“He’s a really smart guy,” Piper said of Dodd. “Because he’s obscure, this type of forum was key for him because he can he can really shine and convince people that he has what it takes.”

—Nicholas A. Ciani can be reached at nciani@fas.harvard.edu.