Chris Dodd video profile
"He told me, 'You ought to jump in and interrupt more often - you have a lot to say,'" Dodd recalled during a recent house party in Waterloo.
"And I said, 'Is that an endorsement, Barack?'"
Like so many other lesser-known presidential hopefuls, Dodd has staked his candidacy on Iowa. But unlike Republican Mike Huckabee or Democrats Bill Richardson and Joe Biden, Dodd has so far gained little traction in the state.
Dodd regularly polls at about 1 percent, and the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll showed him trailing Dennis Kucinich, who has largely ignored Iowa.
"Chris has really struggled to establish a base, and it's not for a lack of effort," said Dave Nagle, a former U.S. congressman and ex-state Democratic chairman.
Dodd has made more than 125 stops in the state, and in October he went all in: He picked up and moved his family to Des Moines and enrolled his two children in school there.
His supporters argue he is eminently qualified for the nation's highest office, and his accomplishments during nearly 28-year Senate career stand out.
He possesses a deep understanding of international and economic issues, and he holds senior positions on Senate committees that address those topics.
But Dodd is perhaps best known for his advocacy of family and children's issues. On the campaign trail, he frequently mentions he authored the Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides Americans up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a new child or sick family member.
"It probably touched more lives in terms of health care than any legislation in more than 30 years," said State Sen. Jeff Danielson of Waterloo, his Iowa campaign co-chair.
Like Dodd's Democratic rivals who served in the Senate at the time, he voted for the Iraq war in 2002 but is now vehemently opposed to it.
He has regularly criticized his party's front-runners on Iraq. On the campaign trail, he often points out that at a recent debate, John Edwards, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton refused to commit to a firm date to pull troops from Iraq.
"I'm nervous when we have three of the so-called leading candidates say they couldn't commit to take our troops out of Iraq by 2013," he said during a stop in Waterloo.
Dodd also has drawn distinctions between himself and Joe Biden, his long-time friend and Senate colleague. He reminds voters that Biden voted for 2005 bankruptcy reform legislation, which he described as "pro-industry," and for federal funding of the war in Iraq.
But a long resume means little without the people's support. He's hoping a loyal band of firefighters - the International Association of Firefighters endorsed him in September - will create a last-minute push. It's the same union that backed John Kerry in his Iowa win four years ago.
The union is touring the state in early December to drum up support, hoping to recreate the old Kerry magic.
Waterloo firefighter and Democratic activist Tom Powers said it's not too late for a surge. He believes with such a large field of candidates this year, many people remain undecided.
"I think this time there will be more people going to the Iowa caucuses that are truly undecided," he said. "I think people will move on that last night more than ever."
Christopher J. Dodd
Born: May 27,1944, in Willimantic, Conn.
Career: U.S. senator, 1980-present; U.S. House of Representatives, 1975-81; Former general chairman, Democratic National Committee.
U.S. Army National Guard, 1968-75; Peace Corps volunteer, Dominican Republic, 1966-68.
Education: University of Louisville School of Law, 1972; bachelor's degree in English literature, Providence College, 1966.
Family: Wife, Jackie Clegg Dodd; two daughters: Grace and Christina.