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Democratic Senate Candidate in CT a 'Martha Coakley in Pants?'


11:40 AM, Apr 15, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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When Sen. Chris Dodd decided to retire instead of seeking another term as senator, the conventional wisdom held that popular Connecticut Attorney General Dick Blumenthal would turn an at-risk seat into an easy win for his party.

Turns out Blumenthal's bumbling has Democrats nervous, despite a commanding lead over Republican challengers Rob Simmons and Linda McMahon. (He lead Simmons 52-38 in a Rasmussen poll this week.)

The New York Times details Blumenthal's missteps including a Caroline Kennedy-esque answer to why he wants to be a senator.

In an interview last week, Mr. Blumenthal took nearly 10 minutes to answer a question about why, aside from personal ambition, he wanted to be a senator, using much of that time to say why the job of attorney general had been a “perfect fit” for his skill set and passions. He eventually got across that he hoped to advance in the Senate the causes he has pursued as attorney general by changing federal law.

“But this is kind of a long-winded answer and not a terribly cogent one,” he acknowledged, unprompted.

He also flubbed a debate with a little-known primary candidate and is refusing a rematch:

His biggest blunder at the debate, on March 1, occurred when his opponent for the Democratic nomination, Merrick Alpert, rhetorically asked Mr. Blumenthal how many jobs his office’s lawsuits had created. Mr. Blumenthal took the bait. “Our lawsuits, our legal actions, actually create jobs,” he said, smiling earnestly. “Because businesses actually welcome competition and a level playing field.”

Jobs are the biggest issue in Connecticut, as nearly everywhere else this election cycle. But Connecticut is one of only two states — the other is Michigan — where employment has fallen in the decades since Mr. Blumenthal took office. His critics argue that his attacks on corporations have helped cement the state’s image as unfriendly to business.

The Republican primary has gotten heated between Simmons, a former representative, and McMahon, WWE wrestling impresario. Both trail Blumenthal by large margins, but McMahon in particular can spend far more money than Blumenthal. The combination of Blumenthal's unexpected vulnerability, McMahon's money, and the political climate could be much more interesting than anticipated.

Of course, McMahon is not without her own controversies. A 1991 internal WWE memo shows she tipped off a WWE-associated doctor about a federal investigation into steroid distribution. McMahon and her husband Vince were acquitted, but the doctor was sentenced to three years.

The Coakley loss also depended, not just on Coakley's incompetence, but Democrats not noticing her incompetence until it was too late and Scott Brown's sneak surge was unstoppable. In Connecticut, Democrats are getting plenty of warning about Blumenthal while Republicans continue to gut it out in a tough primary. He's already hired an alumna from the Obama Connecticut campaign to get him into shape.

But any campaign that starts out with no answer for why he wants to be senator and the phrase, "Have I taken a position on this?" has a lot of work to do.

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