Hartford, Conn. — If James L. Buckley, former US senator for New York, wins his political comeback battle in Connecticut, much of the credit will belong to his apparently well-stocked campaign coffers.
Thus far, the Connecticut native and brother of conservative commentator William F. Buckley Jr. remains very much the underdog. He trails his Democratic opponent, US Rep. Christopher J. Dodd, by a substantial margin by all accounts.
The Buckley campaign has spent or committed more than $2 million in a heavily news media-oriented effort to persuade Connecticut voters that he would be best qualified for the seat being vacated by retiring US Sen. Abraham Ribicoff (D).
Although conceding their candidate still is running behind, Buckley campaign leaders contend the gap is narrowing and is a lot smaller than the 24-point spread indicated in a recent Hartford Courant voter sampling. That poll gave Mr. Dodd, a third-term congressman from the state's second district, 55 percent to 31 for the Republican nominee, with 14 percent undecided.
The two senatorial candidates could hardly be farther apart in their political philosophies. Mr. Buckley is no less a conservative than in the past. This has tended to make Dodd appear to be perhaps even more of a liberal than he is -- although he is considerably more liberal than his late father, Thomas J. Dodd, who was a US senator from Connecticut from 1959 to 1970.
Attempting to make the most of this, Buckley tells voters that were the elder Dodd around today he would be supporting the Republican candidate rather than his own son.
The Buckley candidacy has the support of most prominent Connecticut Republicans -- conservatives, moderates, and even some liberals. Conspicuously missing from the list, however, is US Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr., a longtime liberal Republican.
The Democrats are in solid ranks behind Dodd.
Buckley and Dodd have had six debates thus far which have underscored the substantial differences in their views.
Republican Buckley proposes a tuition tax credit and increased defense spending. He says that he worked for a stronger defense commitment when he was in the Senate previously, along with seeking to limit "reckless spending that contributed to inflation and bigger government bureaucracy."
Democrat Dodd warns that across-the-board tax cuts proposed by the Republicans are not the way to strengthen the nation's economy. He favors a more selective approach, including personal income tax credits to offset increases in social security payroll deductions.