Chris Dodd Plans Tour With Firefighters After Key Campaign Endorsement

Democrat Christopher Dodd said Wednesday he will make a three-day, three-state tour accompanied by officials of the International Association of Fire Fighters, hoping the popular firefighters will boost his underdog presidential candidacy.

The tour, which will begin Thursday, includes the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada

"There's going to be lightning in the cornfields of Iowa," the Connecticut senator predicted, as he accepted the firefighters union's endorsement.

Four years ago, the union's endorsement energized John Kerry's struggling campaign, helping him to go to win the 2004 Democratic nomination. The firefighters hope to be kingmakers again.

Dodd is in single digits in most national polls, far behind front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton and the other two top tier candidates, Barack Obama and John Edwards.

But Dodd and the firefighters said Democrats in early voting states have yet to make up their minds on a candidate to support.

Schaitberger, who was named a national co-chair of Dodd's campaign, said his union's executive board unanimously chose Dodd over better-funded, more popular Democrats because of his experience in domestic policy, foreign affairs and security.

"We think that if the citizens of this country don't feel a candidate will keep them safe and secure, the other issues won't matter," said IAFF President Harold A. Schaitberger, who brought up the attacks of Sept. 11 and the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

The firefighters union represents more than 281,000 professional firefighters and emergency medical personnel in the United States and Canada. The union was heavily courted for its endorsement by all eight Democratic candidates.

The union gave $2.1 million in political donations in 2006, with 72 percent going to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The IAFF gave $1.78 million in the last presidential election cycle, with the same share — 72 percent — going to Democrats.