Despite lower profile, Sen. Dodd tells voters to give him a chance

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HOOKSETT, N.H. (AP) – Sen. Chris Dodd made it through two questions at a Saturday morning coffee before the audience asked him the inevitable.

Sitting in a living room, state Rep. Eileen Ehlers asked the Connecticut Democrat if he has the qualities – meaning, profile – to win his party’s nomination in a field crowded with bigger names.

“At one point, if I’d stood here with 25 years experience in the U.S. Senate, that would have been the end of it,” said Dodd, making his first trip to New Hampshire after announcing his candidacy last week. “This is not a warm up for me. I’m 62. For me, I’m not asking for your support so I can run again in four or eight years.”

But with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton announcing her creation of an exploratory committee earlier in the day, Sen. Barack Obama’s rock star-style visit to New Hampshire in December and Dodd’s limp poll numbers, the white-haired veteran acknowledged his challenges.

“I know there are others who are better known than me, but I want you to give me a chance,” Dodd said. “As my mother told me, comparisons are odious, so I will stay away from that.”

Though he tried to stay away from the comparisons, his audiences didn’t. His experience, his stances on the war in Iraq and even his New England roots all became questions during the first day of his two-day visit.

“You have everything going for you except one thing: You’re a New England liberal,” said Gary Patton, chairman of the Hampton Democrats.

Dodd said ideas, not geography matter.

“The last thing they’re going to ask me is where I’m from,” he said.

On Iraq, Dodd renewed his calls for a political solution. Though he supported the initial invasion, he has become an outspoken critic of the war and he now calls his vote a mistake. Last week, Dodd proposed capping the number of troops at 130,000 to block President Bush’s planned troop increase.

“There needs to be a political solution there, not a military one,” Dodd told a group in Dover. “More troops will only make the situation worse. … More troops does not get you more security.”

Dodd advocated greater oversight and said the proposed surge isn’t the solution.

“If you stay in Iraq, it’s a launching ground for terrorists.”

After his appearance in Dover, Joan Jacobs said she remains skeptical toward candidates who supported the war.

“They’re really going to have to show me they’ve learned,” said Jacobs, of Portsmouth.

In the audience, the chatter was about Clinton, who announced she would file papers to form an exploratory committee.

“I’m not one for exploratory committees,” Dodd said. “You’re in or you’re not.”

Dodd also sought to emphasize his experience in the Senate and his voting record, in what may have been a veiled reference to Sen. Barack Obama, a freshman senator whose potential candidacy has drawn surprising support.

“This is not the time for on-the-job training. We’ve been through that,” he said. Later, when answering a reporter’s question about the comment, Dodd said, “I’ll let Barack make the case for himself.”

The primary is after all, a year away, he said.

“This is a long process. There’s 12 months before the primary,” Dodd said. “I don’t think people in this state want to hear this campaign is over. … Anyone who tells you with certainty what is going to happen a year from now is certainly wrong.”

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