Washington (CNN) – Joe Biden praised Sen. Chris Dodd Friday, but conceded his good friend - one of the Senate's most vulnerable Democrats - is "getting the living hell beat of him."
The vice president made his comments at a fundraiser for Dodd Friday in Hartford, Connecticut. Dodd had been scheduled to accompany Biden at the fundraiser and at event earlier in the day to announce nearly $4 million in federal stimulus funding to replace an aging fire station in East Hartford, but stayed in the nation's capital to work on health care reform legislation and other Senate business.
The five-term senator, who's up for re-election next year and fighting for his political life, was replaced by wife Jackie Clegg Dodd.
The vice president heaped compliments on his fellow Democrat, calling him "the single most gifted legislator in Congress, now that Teddy Kennedy's gone."
Biden spoke of Dodd's dual roles for much of this year leading both the Senate Banking and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees at a time when financial reform and health care reform are among the most pressing matters facing Congress.
"Chris Dodd is the first United States senator that has simultaneously chaired two major committees in a moment of genuine national crisis," Biden said. "And had he got either of those jobs wrong, the consequences for America would be dire....
"Chris is getting the living hell beat out of him, the living bejesus beat out of him," said Biden. "Why? Because he's being a leader. This is going to be a hell of a race and it's an uphill race, but Chris Dodd will prevail."
In a sign of Dodd's sinking political fortunes, the Cook Political Report this week moved his race from "toss up" to "lean Republican."
Dodd saw his approval ratings plunge late last year and early this year, following last year's Wall Street and banking industry financial meltdown, Dodd's involvement in the AIG bonus controversy, and questions about mortgages he obtained from a VIP program.
Dodd's poll numbers inched up during the spring and summer after bottoming out earlier this year. But his approval rating slipped back again in a Quinnipiac University survey released last month. The poll also indicated that by 53 percent to 39 percent, Connecticut voters don't think Dodd deserves to be re-elected next year. According to the survey, Dodd is trailing his two potential Republican challengers in hypothetical 2010 general election matchups.
–Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn