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Simmons Contemplating Senate Race

Mortgage Issues, Presidential Run Make Dodd Appear Vulnerable

Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) is contemplating a challenge to Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) in 2010, as Republicans appear to be telegraphing that they plan to target the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs chairman for defeat.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) met with Simmons to discuss a potential bid a few weeks ago while the former Congressman was in town for the Republican National Committee winter meeting, according to a knowledgeable source. Simmons, however, has not yet made any commitments to the NRSC.

“Congressman Simmons would be a very strong candidate in this race, particularly when ethics and the economy will be two of the biggest issues in 2010,” NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said. “That said, it’s our understanding that he’s still examining his options as are other potential candidates.”

In a phone interview Monday afternoon, Simmons would not say if he was specifically interested in running for Senate, but said he was looking at various opportunities. The former lawmaker was serving as Connecticut’s first Business Advocate under Gov. Jodi Rell (R) until recently, when his department was eliminated.

“I am currently looking around for opportunities to be of service,” Simmons said. “As you know, I’ve got a fairly substantial background in public service and I’m currently just looking around, if you will, exploring possibilities to see what looks good.”

Although Simmons was coy about 2010, he touted his service as an aide to former Sens. John Chafee (R-R.I.) and Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) as proof of his ability to straddle the spectrum of the Republican Party. Simmons was also fast to criticize Dodd for not foreseeing the economic crisis as chairman of the Banking panel, as well as not disclosing the details of a well-publicized deal he got on a mortgage for his home.

“Sen. Dodd has disappointed a lot of his supporters up here in Connecticut with his activities over the last several years,” Simmons said. “He left the state, moved to Iowa, to pursue what turned out to be a frivolous attempt to run for president of the United States of America.”

Even though Connecticut has increasingly voted for Democrats in recent election cycles, Republicans believe Dodd’s failed 2008 presidential bid and public image tarnished by ethical problems has given them an opening. The NRSC — looking to play more offense than they have the past two election cycles — has already made Dodd a frequent target of news releases.

But the GOP has a shallow recruitment bench in the Nutmeg State, considering that as of this year the state does not have a single Republican House Member.

Simmons was one of two Connecticut Republicans who lost re-election in 2006, and a third lost re-election last year. Simmons was defeated by now-Rep. Joe Courtney (D) by 83 votes.

A mid-December survey from Quinnipiac University Polling Institute showed that only 44 percent of the survey’s respondents thought Dodd should be re-elected, while 47 percent said he didn’t deserve re-election.

“His numbers have been coming down. He’s been clearly hurt by the mortgage controversy,” said Doug Schwartz, the director of the Quinnipiac survey, referring to Dodd’s controversial Countrywide home mortgage.

Schwartz said Dodd’s poll numbers started to sink when he began his bid for president.

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