NEW YORK – Sen. Chris Dodd said Tuesday he plans to have "a conversation with the mirror" over the Christmas holidays to decide whether he'll join a growing field of Democratic presidential contenders.
But Dodd, a 25-year Senate veteran, added, "If I had to make a decision in the next thirty seconds, I'd say, 'Let's go."'
In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, the 62-year-old Dodd called himself a dark horse in a crowded field dominated by New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. Neither Clinton nor Obama has announced they will seek the presidency, but both lead every national poll of Democratic contenders.
Yet with the early nominating contests still 13 months away, the Connecticut senator insisted he still has a chance to break through.
"People don't want to be told this race is over, or that it's down to a couple of people and everyone else is wasting their time," he said. And while not mentioning Obama — the field's charismatic newcomer — by name, Dodd said, "the idea that someone could come to this race and bring little or no experience and still connect is going to be hard."
Dodd is little known outside Washington and his home state, despite a long Senate career and a two year stint as chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1995-96, where he traveled the country raising money for candidates. He frames his relative anonymity as an advantage, calling himself "a fresh face with experience" who understands voters' concerns.
"Before they make a decision about a cluster of issues, people what to know if you're paying attention to them," Dodd said. "Do you know who I am? Are you listening to me?"
A first-time presidential candidate, Dodd said he would run to improve the world for his young daughters, ages 5 and 2. He's spent much of the last year traveling to states with early nominating contests, including Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, and says he's received favorable attention from voters.
He plans to stress domestic issues in the race, including education, health care, and rebuilding the nation's manufacturing base.
Dodd voted in favor of the 2002 resolution authorizing military invasion in Iraq, a vote he now calls "a mistake." He leaves Friday for a weeklong tour of several countries in the Middle East, including Iraq.
And while he doesn't believe the Iraq conflict will be the central issue in the 2008 presidential contest, he said it was no time to elect a leader untested in foreign affairs.
"This is a time where international relations are going to be a big deal, and having something to say rather than 'I'll be a quick learner.' There's no time for training wheels on this stuff," Dodd said.
As incoming chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Dodd has broad support in the financial arena which could prove lucrative to him as a candidate. He hinted his fundraising was going well and that people would be "surprised" by his campaign finance report early next year.
Dodd had about $1.8 million in his campaign account at the end of September. By contrast, Clinton has about $14.4 million to spend.