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Christopher Dodd: a worldview shaped by his father and fatherhood.

The five-term Connecticut senator is a strong Roman Catholic who showed an early commitment to social justice.

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Two days after terrorists imploded the World Trade Center and left a gaping hole in the Pentagon, Christopher Dodd became a father for the first time. His daughter Grace was born in Arlington, Va. That, in part, explains why the Connecticut Democrat, now in his early 60s, crisscrosses Iowa in what many say is a quixotic quest for the presidency.

"We could still see the Pentagon smoldering from that hospital," says Senator Dodd in a Monitor interview. "And I asked myself the question that parents have over the ages, 'What kind of a world is this child arriving in?' And then, 'What are you going to do about it?' "

The scion of a staunchly Roman Catholic family dedicated to public service, education, and the law, the five-term senator is running at the bottom of the polls – at 1 percent. He says repeatedly that he's driven not by any long-cherished desire to be president. Yet he's moved his family from a historic converted schoolhouse overlooking the Connecticut River to a rental in Iowa, stumping from dawn in Des Moines to long past dark in Sioux City. The reasons, he says, are Grace and his second daughter, as well as a deep belief in the rule of law, which was instilled in him by his father.

Time and again at cafes, libraries, and colleges, Dodd cites the war in Iraq, the scandals of Abu Ghraib, the Central Intelligence Agency's secret prisons, and the Bush administration's wiretapping without warrants of millions of Americans as proof that the nation must "regain its moral footing."

"Over the past six years, this administration has waged an assault on the Constitution," he told a packed coffeehouse in Des Moines in early December. "They're selling a false dichotomy that in order for us to be more secure, we're going to have to give up some rights. I believe the opposite is true: If you give up your liberty and your rights, you become far less secure."

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