Firefighters making money push for Dodd

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) is broadening its political skills, adding fundraising to the list of gifts the union gives to the candidate it supports.

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Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), the recipient of the coveted IAFF endorsement, will probably match his third quarter numbers, and “ideally do a little better,” according to IAFF president Harold Schaitberger.

In an interview with The Hill, Schaitberger described how he has intensified his fundraising efforts on Dodd’s behalf in an effort to earn “somebody who is polling at the bottom end of the second tier” some media attention for his third-quarter haul.

Schaitberger said he thinks Dodd will have a “solid” quarter that might surprise some pundits.

The union president said since the IAFF announced it is backing Dodd, he has seen a “renewed level of energy and enthusiasm.”

“I think we’re making progress,” Schaitberger said. “I’m as confident as ever that there is a path to do this.”

Schaitberger added, however, that he is not “naïve,” saying “it’s hard to ignore” the poll positions, media attention and fundraising numbers some of the other candidates are putting up.

Schaitberger said he finds Dodd to be in “a very similar place” to where Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) was at this time in 2003 when the IAFF was backing the eventual nominee.

In fact, Schaitberger noted that, in late 2003, Kerry had to loan his campaign money. He added that “on infrastructure and finances…Dodd is even in a stronger position.”

Schaitberger said the unions in New Hampshire and Iowa are putting together their programs to introduce Dodd to the early state voters, which in 2003-2004 included the chili feed tours in the Granite State.

Though Schaitberger said his time and energy are wholly focused on helping Dodd, he said he has not stopped trying to “educate” his union members about their issues with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R).

The bad blood between Giuliani and the IAFF has been well-documented by now – especially given the DVD the fire fighters put out to try and quash Giuliani’s White House hopes – and Schaitberger said the union is continuing to make “our views and opinions of him known very strongly.”

“Certainly, if he ends up as the nominee, you’re going to see us go after him at a whole different level,” Schaitberger said.