Politics 2010: Connecticut GOP Senate race gets nasty

By NICOLE DEBEVEC, United Press International   |   Aug. 8, 2010 at 6:00 AM
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The fight to succeed U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., has become a knock-down-drag-out among Republicans ahead of Tuesday's primary.

Just weeks before the party primaries, Senate GOP hopefuls Peter Schiff and former Rep. Rob Simmons both started airing ads attacking front-runner Linda McMahon, CQ Politics reported.

Schiff, who pledged supporters to go negative, is running a 30-second television spot that shows McMahon, former chief executive officer of World Wrestling Entertainment, in a wrestling ring, kicking a man between the legs with a voiceover saying McMahon "has kicked Republicans for years" by contributing to national Democrats and attending the Democratic National Convention."

Simmons' spot is less aggressive but still includes a not-so-subtle jab at McMahon.

"Lest we forget, service defines us. Service protects us. It heals us. It inspires us. Service is selfless; it's compassionate; it's human; it's American," says the voiceover as wholesome images, including a young Simmons in military uniform, move across the screen. "And the right to serve is earned. It's not bought. It's not entered into on a whim."

McMahon already has poured more than $22 million from her personal fortune into her primary campaign, on the list of self-funding congressional candidates, a Roll Call analysis indicates.

McMahon is favored to win the Aug. 10 GOP primary, CQ Politics said, and armchair observers say it highly likely she'll move up the list of self-funders by the time November rolls around.

While it has been reported that McMahon is willing to spend as much as $50 million of her personal fortune, spokesman Ed Patru said the campaign won't reveal its spending strategy.

"She'll invest what it takes to win," Patru said. "And it's important to remember that she's not taking a penny of special interest money. She's funding this herself because she does not want her independence compromised."

A recent Quinnipiac University poll for the fall Senate match-up McMahon was within 10 percentage points of presumptive Democratic nominee, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal .

In the wresting vernacular, "The McMahon-Blumenthal Senate race in Connecticut could be a real smackdown, as the Republican has the money and momentum, cutting into Blumenthal's lead month to month," pollster Doug Schwartz said.

Democrats in Washington breathed easier when Dodd -- plagued by lousy polling numbers and several self-inflicted gaffes -- announced he wouldn't seek a sixth term. With the popular Blumenthal in the race, Democrats' thought their chances of holding the seat were good -- but could have been better if not for revelations that Blumenthal often had misspoken about his military service. Pundits say only time will tell just how damaging the report will be for Blumenthal.

Blumenthal accepted the Democratic Party's nomination for the Senate seat May 21, saying later he would not let his opponents "make this race about attacks on my character and service."

While facing an uphill battle against Republicans Schiff and McMahon, Simmons, who waffled about whether he'd run before jumping into the race, captured key newspaper endorsements, The Day in New London and the Hartford Courant.

In its editorial backing Simmons, The Day questioned McMahon's credentials, saying she "made her riches through an exploitative and often degrading form of entertainment with links to steroid use. ... Ms. McMahon says WWE has cleaned up its act to 'PG' status. Still, the nature of her business background will turn off many voters."

The GOP senatorial race has overshadowed Connecticut's gubernatorial race to succeed Republican M. Jodi Rell who is retiring.

Among the GOP candidates listed by USElections.com are the state's Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley and businessman Nelson Griebel.

Democrats will choose between businessman and former state pension board member Ned Lamont and Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy.

A recent Quinnipiac poll indicated Foley and Lamont leading their respective races.

In the state's five Congressional District races, all incumbent Democrats will advance to the general election because they are running unopposed.

In the 1st Congressional District, Rep. John Larson will face either Ann Brickley or Mark Zydanowicz.

Joe Courtney will be defending his 2nd Congressional District seat against Republicans Doug Dubitsky, Daria Novak or Janet Peckinpaugh.

Incumbent Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Republican Jerry Labriola are running unopposed in the 3rd Congressional District.

In the 4th Congressional District, Dan Debicella, Rob Merkle and Rick Torres are battling on the Republican ticket to take on Rep. Jim Himes.

Rep. Chris Murphy will pin his re-election bid in the 5th Congressional District against Justin Bernier, Sam Caligiuri or Mark Greenburg on the Republican ballot.

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