Dodd trails GOP challenger by 11

If Chris Dodd managed to avoid a Senate inquiry into his chummy deals with Countrywide and Angelo Mozilo, he hasn’t avoided a confrontation with the voters in Connecticut.  A new Quinnipiac poll shows Republican challenger Rob Simmons with an 11-point lead over the incumbent, who can’t get into the 40% range against the former Congressman.  He fares only slightly better against pro-wrestling exec Linda McMahon:

Former Connecticut Congressman Rob Simmons has an early lead in the Republican primary race for the 2010 U.S. Senate contest and runs better than any other challenger against Sen. Christopher Dodd, topping the Democratic incumbent 49 – 38 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Former World Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon gets 43 percent to Sen. Dodd’s 41 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.

Even potential Republican contenders with almost no name recognition and almost no Republican primary voter support give Dodd a run for his money.

As the pollster notes in this release, it looks like a solid 40% of the electorate has already decided on a candidate: Anyone But Dodd.  His approval numbers have headed south, and disapproval threatens to reach 60%.  The push on health care reform should be working for Dodd, but no one trusts him on the economy, which makes it difficult for him to gain any polling health with his work on the Banking Committee.

The entry of McMahon in the race has significantly altered the primary, but thus far not the general election.  McMahon gains 17% of the vote, almost all of which came from Simmons, who dropped from 43% to 28% in polling after McMahon threw her hat in the ring.  That doesn’t indicate that Simmons is in trouble yet, but it does show that it will be an interesting race to the nomination, especially with McMahon’s ability to self-fund.  Interestingly, the idea of Peter Schiff doesn’t make a dent in the primary fight.

How is Dodd doing so poorly in the blue, blue state of Connecticut?  He’s losing both men and women, for one thing, and even 15% of Democrats would vote for Simmons in a general election; only 68% of Democrats would commit to voting for Dodd, with the rest undecided.  The biggest problem, as it is for Democrats all over the country, is the flight of independents.  Simmons wins among independent voters by a whopping 2-1 margin, 57%-29%.

It looks as though Connecticut will cleanse the Senate of at least one Friend of Angelo.

Update: In thinking about this a little more, I have to wonder whether Dodd will stay in the race.  Maybe the Democrats might want to find another candidate — perhaps another run by Ned Lamont, who can self-finance a campaign, while Dodd retires to his mansion in Ireland … which he bought with the help of Angelo Mozilo, of course.