Only days after a staggering blunder by Connecticut Democratic Senate nominee Richard Blumenthal seemed to raise the stock of Republican Rob Simmons in his attempt to snare the GOP nod, the former congressman has bowed out of the race.
The Hartford Courant reports that Simmons announced today that he is ending his campaign for the Senate after the state Republican Convention endorsed his opponent Linda McMahon on Friday. The revelation that Blumenthal had lied repeatedly about his military service should have helped Simmons, since unlike the state’s attorney general, he was a veteran who had actually served in Vietnam and had been decorated for his actions. But the story, which seems to have been uncovered by researchers working for the McMahon campaign, didn’t help Simmons. Instead, it merely demonstrated to Connecticut Republicans that the wealthy McMahon had unlimited resources and thus was, by definition, the more viable candidate.
Simmons, who received 46 percent of the state convention vote, could have forced a primary against the former World Wrestling Federation CEO, but in pulling out he said, “We understand the mathematical reality of competing against an opponent with unlimited financial resources who has already invested … $16.5 million in this campaign.” McMahon has been quoted as saying that she will spend up to $50 million of her own money to win a Senate seat.
Simmons’s decision not to try and knock off McMahon in the primary is good news for the latter and is being greeted with acclaim by Connecticut Republicans who were eager to avoid a bruising and divisive intra-party battle before facing off against the well-financed and, up until last week, heavily favored Blumenthal.
But the fact that McMahon is now the overwhelming favorite to be the GOP nominee is also good news for Blumenthal. Rather than finding himself juxtaposed against a genuine war hero, whose mere presence on the ballot would have reminded voters of his Vietnam lies, a well-heeled but highly vulnerable opponent will oppose the Democrat. The shady background of the WWF is fertile ground for the Democrats’ own opposition researchers, whose efforts will be redoubled after Blumenthal’s “Vietnam veteran” fiasco.
Republicans may be right in thinking that Blumenthal has been irreparably damaged by his Vietnam falsehoods and the self-righteous way he sought to evade apologizing for “misspeaking” about his military record. But they need to brace themselves for what will undoubtedly be months of stories about the WWF, the most flattering of which will center on its unsavory if comical promotion of violence and steroid abuse. In a year in which anti-establishment fervor seems to be the keynote of political discourse, an unconventional candidate like McMahon might have a chance, especially against a compromised figure like Blumenthal. But it is far from certain she will be able to weather the sort of scrutiny that her candidacy will mandate. McMahon’s involvement in what has always been thought a less than respectable business may have given her the wherewithal to damage Blumenthal and sink Simmons, but it may also prove the undoing of the GOP in Connecticut.