Fast to release stinging press releases but following them with largely subdued on-camera remarks, Connecticut Democrat Sen. Chris Dodd's presidential campaign is quickly developing a reputation for having a bark that's worse than its bite.
During MSNBC's Democratic debate Wednesday, moderator Tim Russert challenged Dodd on a press release from his camp worded to imply that President Bush wants Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., to be the Democratic party nominee.
It was the Connecticut senator's moment to go for the Democratic front-runner's jugular. Instead, Dodd went for the jocular, stumbling through jokes, taking shots at the incumbent president and prefacing his criticism by acknowledging, "We all respect and admire Hillary."
Again, Russert pressed: "But your statement said, 'I can understand why the president would want Sen. Clinton.' Why does George Bush want Sen. Clinton to be the nominee of the party? That's what you said."
And again Dodd took the wind out of his paper statement, "I was being somewhat facetious, Tim, obviously here, in the question here of whether or not you're actually trying to, in a sense, encourage a certain outcome here."
Dodd's second answer to Russert covered his experience fighting for family medical leave and childcare legislation, but never referenced Clinton, either indirectly or by name, his performance begging the question: Is Dodd too senatorial for direct confrontation?
Dodd spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan rejected the notion that Dodd's "attack" stance was indicative of his White House credentials.
Flanagan said, "Some members of the press, and other semi-informed observers, are preoccupied with the "moment," the "attack," the "slap," during debates. But that's not what debates are about, in reality, and that's not how Dodd operates."
Dodd's battle to distinguish himself in the second-tier and among the Democratic candidate pool, on paper and on camera, has been a defining critique and characteristic of his candidacy.
Last week, the the senior senator from Connecticut called Clinton's silence on the Iraq War "deafening" but when asked by ABC News to comment, he once again gave no mention of Clinton's name and spoke in general terms about the duties facing all candidates to exercise congressional power of the purse to end the war.
The Dodd campaign has been equally harsh -- on paper -- on Democratic rival and Senate colleague Sen. Barack Obama's, D-Ill., position on Iraq describing Obama's language as "soaring" but the "substance of his position" lacking "specificity," calling his "assertions about foreign and military affairs...confusing and confused."
Flanagan charged that Dodd is "determined to draw sharp, clear, fair, and honest distinctions between him and his opponents in this race" leaving the impression that the senator's harsh words for the candidate pool could be left to pen and paper rather than debate and forum.
"He's done that, and he'll continue to do that, but he'll treat his friends in this race with respect and collegiality," Flanagan said.
Having a collegial attitude towards his fellow candidates didn't hurt Sen. John Edwards during his '04 bid for the White House. Nicknamed "Positive Edwards", he went on to become Sen. John Kerry's vice presidential running mate.
Dodd was recently asked in a CNN interview if he had any vice presidential ambitions. The Connecticut senator made it clear that being second-in-command is not part of the plan.
Dodd said he'd "rather be the senator of Connecticut" and when asked in the follow-up: "So you don't want to be vice president?"
Dodd responded, "No not at all."