Democratic Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd on Thursday announced his bid for the presidency on the "Imus in the Morning" radio show.

"I decided I wanted to get on the arena floor and make my case to be president," said the 62-year-old lawmaker, who pointed to his experience and background as his strengths.

The 26-year Senate veteran enters a growing Democratic field overshadowed by two likely candidates — Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.

Democrats running or likely to run include former Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina and Mike Gravel of Alaska; Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware; Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa.

Dodd, a veteran lawmaker who entered Congress in the post-Watergate class of 1974, said his decision to run came after speaking with Americans and realizing "things aren't going as well as they should here and abroad."

"There's a heightened sense of urgency about the condition of the country. But it isn't just Iraq -- there are problems here at home that are huge," Dodd said.

Later Thursday, he planned to visit Iowa, the site of the first presidential nominating caucus next January. He travels to South Carolina, an early primary state, on Sunday.

Talking with radio host Don Imus, Dodd said he was "going to skip this exploratory phase that a lot of people go through and become a full-fledged candidate for the presidency."

Throughout his decades-long career in Washington, the Connecticut senator has forged strong ties with labor unions, championed fiscal accountability for corporations and taken on education and other children's issues. This month, he became chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and is a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Dodd plans to focus on education, energy policy and health care in his campaign.

New Hampshire Democratic Party leader Kathy Sullivan said Dodd had other attributes that make him appealing.

"People really like him. He's very smart. He's also very articulate. And I think he might have the sharpest wit of anyone in the field," Sullivan said.

Dodd voted in 2002 to authorize military intervention in Iraq but has become an outspoken critic of the war and now calls his vote a mistake. He has said he would oppose an escalation of U.S. forces in Iraq and has said Congress should consider withholding funding for such a troop increase.

Dodd has been politically active on behalf of other Democrats, raising money and campaigning for candidates across the country and chaired the Democratic National Committee from 1995 to 1996.

In 1974, he was elected to the House at 30, part of a Democratic tide after the Watergate scandal and President Nixon's resignation. His father, Thomas Dodd, served as a senator for two terms.

Dodd and his wife, Jackie Marie Clegg, have two daughters, ages 5 and 22 months.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.