Barring Cataclysm, Dodd Vows Victory For President Clinton

Never in my memory have I heard a national party chairman express so certainly the expectation of a presidential victory. But here was Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Democratic Party chieftain, throwing all caution aside and asserting at this very early date that practically nothing could prevent President Clinton's reelection.

Senator Dodd was talking to reporters at a recent Monitor breakfast. His early claim of victory prompted questioning: "What if Clinton got hurt in the Whitewater probe?" Nope, said Dodd, people were no longer interested in Whitewater.

"But what if there were some 'event' that damaged Clinton badly?" someone asked. Here Dodd gave a little ground but added that unless something like that happened in the next few weeks, "it will take a cataclysmic event" to keep the president from winning a second term.

The ebullient Dodd's super-confidence spilled over into his views of other upcoming races. He said that 24 of 28 state legislative elections since last November were won by the Democrats and that he saw that wave of victories carrying forward into the fall elections.

"We're in a very strong position," he said, "to win back both the House and the Senate."

Someone reminded Dodd that President Bush was still looking like a winner at about this time preceding his run for reelection. This didn't faze the chairman. He said the Democratic political strength "runs much deeper than the 15 or 20 percent lead that Clinton has over Dole in the polls."

Well, Chris Dodd may well be right - but I'm not going to write Dole off. Clinton might indeed stumble. And Dole can't look much worse than he does today. He's bound to make somewhat of a comeback.

According to the recent New York Times/CBS poll, the GOP candidate could immediately turn the race into a close contest if Colin Powell could be talked into taking the vice presidential spot on the ticket.

But as of now the Democratic chairman isn't talking through his hat. One reporter put it this way to Dodd: "The polls show that the blacks and the women are solidly behind Clinton. With that kind of support, how could you lose?" Dodd found it pleasing to hear his own position being supported by a questioner who usually grilled him unmercifully. He grinned.

Then there's the widespread evidence that the labor unions - after a lapse of a number of years - are once again throwing their manpower and money behind a Democratic presidential candidate. This includes blue-collar workers who were wooed away from their party by Ronald Reagan.

There's also a "hidden" factor in the race that helps Clinton immeasurably: the moderate Republicans who are either going to vote for the president or sit out this election. I have a note from one of them - a former GOP national committeeman - who pens: "If the Far Right takes over the convention to make their will prevail, I would have a hard time 'buying' the top of the ticket. And I'm not the only one."

There are, indeed, a lot of Republicans who are uneasy about the Christian right. These Republicans are economically conservative. But many of them are pro-choice on abortion. And more than anything else they are opposed to the way the Christian right has injected its religious views into politics. They don't want to be aligned with such a movement.

These same Republicans don't care much for Clinton. But they may vote for him in the fall - or help him hold on to the presidency by not voting at all.

Oh, yes, back to the breakfast and Chris Dodd. "In the face of all of your fearless predictions this morning," I said, "aren't you going to look awfully bad if Clinton loses?"

"Well," he said with a smile, "I know I won't be invited back to one of your breakfasts."

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