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Can Ted Kennedy save Chris Dodd? Video here

June 22, 2009 |  7:25 am

Barack Obama and Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy during the 2008 presidential campaign

He is fighting brain cancer. He has not cast a vote in the Senate in three months. He is calling in plays on the healthcare debate, sometimes through his friend, Utah Republican Orrin Hatch.

But Ted Kennedy -- the lion of the Senate and the last surviving brother of President John F. Kennedy and New York Sen. Robert Kennedy, each felled by an assassin's bullet -- is still a player in Washington politics.

And now, the Massachusetts senator who passed the mantle of Camelot to Barack Obama at a key moment in last year's primaries is hoping to anoint Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd with the imprimatur of healthcare champion.

Widely viewed as the most vulnerable Democrat up for re-election next year, Dodd has a lot to recover from. Battered by reports that he received a favorable loan from Countrywide Financial, the current chairman of the Senate Banking Committee said he'd done nothing wrong. His poll numbers plummeted. And some voters were still grumbling that he deserted Connecticut during his run for the presidency, moving his family to Iowa for a year, enrolling his daughter in kindergarten there but, at the end of the day, not garnering enough votes for a single delegate.

Last month, a Quinnipiac University poll of registered voters showed Dodd with a 53% unfavorable rating -- and that was an improvement on his 58% unfavorable showing in March.

Can Kennedy's endorsement help? Dodd was savvy enough to release the ad now, about 18 months before the election. See what you think.

This is not the first time Dodd has rolled out a big name in hopes of recovering voter sympathy. Last month,  he posted an ad featuring the popular President Obama in the Rose Garden signing a credit card relief bill, giving "a special shout-out to Chris Dodd, who has been a relentless fighter to get this done.”

But this endorsement may actually say more about Kennedy than about Dodd, an indication that the man once viewed as the face of partisan liberalism in the Senate has become a respected figure to mainstream voters.

As the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza observed this morning, "That Dodd would use the once-controversial Kennedy in an ad is a testament to two things: He is worried about a primary challenge ... and that feelings toward the once-controversial Massachusetts senator have softened as he approaches the twilight of his days."

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Associated Press

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