In the wake of the AIG bonus scandal, Connecticut Senate Chris Dodd is in serious trouble for re-election. In fact, the odds are now that he will lose, as a new Quinnipiac poll shows him trialing Republican challenger Rob Simmons by a whopping 16%:
Quinnipiac, March 26-31, 1,181 RVs, MoE 2.9 (March 8th numbers in parenthesis)
Simmons 50% (43%)
Dodd: 34% (42%)
This simply must be the result of the AIG scandal. Could anything else have possibly hurt Dodd so badly over the past twenty-five days? It is a painful irony that Dodd is the one taking the fall on this, given that he was the Senator trying to write stronger limits on executive compensation into the stimulus package, and it was other members who stripped it out. The Democrats who were in the room know what happened, and might be able to help Dodd if they fess up on who stripped the language.
Otherwise, not to be bleak or anything, it might not be possible for Dodd to recover from a deficit like this. It is true that a Research 2000 / Daily Kos poll taken just before this Quinnipiac poll showed Dodd ahead of Simmons by 5%, so one of those polls (or both) is very, very wrong. So, it is probably best to wait for a third confirming poll to develop a better sense of the campaign.
However, if the Q-poll is correct, than this is better than the advantage Bob Casey started out with against Rick Santorum in 2005, and akin to the advantage Tom Udall started with in New Mexico in 2007. Those campaigns ended up in 17.36% and 22.66% blowouts respectively, as the incumbent and incumbent party never recovered. I'd be hard pressed to find any incumbent Senator that has ever recovered from a 16% deficit. While the so-called "incumbent rule," where challengers gain the overwhelming percentage of undecideds in campaigns with incumbents, does not hold up as well as it used to, it is still safe to say that trailing by 16% with a name ID over 90% is a bad position. What is worse for Dodd in the poll is that he is also losing by 4% to a lesser known Republican State Senator, meaning that much of his deficit is specific to Simmons, who many Connecticut voters seems to consider an acceptable Republican, rather than just to an anti-Dodd sentiment. As such, retaining this seat will probably require either Dodd not seeking re-election, or Simmons being defeated in a Club for Growth fueled primary.
If Dodd were to step aside, it is a lock that Attorney General Richard Blumenthal would be able to retain the seat for Democrats. A February Q-poll recent poll showed Blumenthal defeating Lieberman by 28% in the general election, and with a 79%-12% approval rating. While it would be unfortunate to lose such a rock-solid chance to defeat Lieberman, recent polling from Research 2000 has shown that Ned Lamont is still primed to defeat Lieberman in 2012 if he decides to run again. Of course, while Lamont and Blumenthal remain solid bench candidates for Democrats in the state, Republicans have their own in Governor Jodi Rell. The same poll showing Dodd down 16% shows Rell with a 72% approval rating. All of this guarantees that Connecticut will be a big state, possibly the top state, to watch on the Senate front for the next four years.