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Warming the bench

"Warming the bench" Continued...

Issue: "Mission: Impossible?," Oct. 13, 2007

"That is not going to help them in a general election," Richardson says. But he concedes: "It might help them in a primary."

For Dennis Kucinich, finding help in the primaries is an uphill battle. The congressman from Ohio falls in the bottom three of Democratic presidential candidates, with about 2 percent of the vote in recent polls. In his 2004 presidential bid, Kucinich garnered about 1 percent of the vote.

But the candidate is accustomed to working alone and thrives on his unique positions, both personally and politically. The Ohio native is the oldest of seven children who lived with his family in 21 different places by the time he was 17. Now a 61-year-old vegan, the congressman, who is twice divorced, recently married an English woman who is 30 years younger than he is.

A self-described "peace candidate," Kucinich is the only Democratic candidate who voted against the Iraq War. The congressman also votes against funding the war, and he recently introduced a House resolution to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney.

The candidate's domestic agenda is as radical as his foreign policy ideas: He proposes a not-for-profit health-care system that he calls "Medicare for all." Kucinich dismisses the notion that his ideas won't resonate with the American public, saying his positions are "mainstream."

Mike Gravel doesn't try to be mainstream. The retired U.S. senator from Alaska has made his mark on the Democratic nominating contest by being the most contrary candidate in the race. He scolds his fellow candidates for being too soft, and he floats over-the-top proposals: In a debate in South Carolina earlier this year, Gravel, 77, said the United States not only should pull out of Iraq, but that Congress should make it a felony to stay.

During the same debate, Gravel asserted that the United States has "no important enemies." He asked NBC moderator Brian Williams: "Who are you afraid of, Brian?" and later asked Obama: "Who do you want to nuke?"

After the debate, Gravel acknowledged: "I get too angry." Voters may agree: At the end of the second quarter, Gravel had a dismal $31,000 in campaign cash on hand.

Chris Dodd has much more money, but not much more support. At the end of the second quarter, the senator from Connecticut had about $6.3 million cash on hand for his presidential bid. But Dodd, 63, garnered only 1 percent of likely Democratic voters in recent polls.

Like the other Democratic candidates, Dodd has made ending the war his chief campaign theme. He's also emphasized civil rights for foreign detainees and has pledged $1 billion to build more affordable housing for senior citizens.

In the process, Dodd has sought to rebuild the reputation of his late father, Thomas Dodd, a Democratic senator who was censured by the Senate in 1967 for diverting $116,000 in campaign funds for personal use. His father took responsibility for his actions, and Dodd remained devoted to him until he died four years later.

Dodd's brother, Thomas Dodd Jr., recently told The New York Times that he thought his brother's political career was closely intertwined with his father's. As for his brother's tenacity in a race behind so many front-runners, he added: "I don't know what the thinking is on this thing, but he sure is enjoying it."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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