Former US Rep. Rob Simmons, reeling from the effects of an opponent willing to spend $50 million of her personal fortune, is dropping out of the race for the US Senate. He is expected to make the announcement this morning in New London. The move sets up a colossal match-up between state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and former wrestling executive Linda McMahon. The news that Simmons was dropping out was reported by WFSB Monday night.
Simmons got into the race in the beginning of 2009 when a badly damaged Sen. Christopher Dodd was dropping like a stone in the polls. Simmons had no real opponent for the nomination until September of the last year when McMahon got into the race and started spending millions on TV and direct mail advertisements. Soon, she was leading in the polls. The proverbial straw on the camel’s back may have been his loss to McMahon in this past weekend’s party nominating convention. Earlier, Simmons had said he would abide by the decision of the convention. But after losing the endorsement this past weekend, he promised to wage a primary.
Simmons dropping out of the race calls into question the tactics of his campaign. Did he not have the money to at least compete? Or did he have the money and make the strategic decision to not spend it yet? One would think that if the party endorsement was seen as that important, he would have spent money on advertising to secure it and then rely on party “establishment” to turn out for the primary in August when most people are worried about getting to the beach or the ball games.
Another factor may have been that Simmons expected more traction from the troubles of Democratic nominee Richard Blumenthal. Blumenthal was caught embellishing his military record and Sunday night had to apologize for saying, on some occasions, that he served in Vietnam when in fact, he was in the Marine reserves stateside. The video of Blumenthal making those false claims was widely circulated and were replayed as late as this past Sunday on the national network public affairs shows. Simmons served two tours in Vietnam—one in the army and the other in the intelligence service. One would think Simmons would benefit by the contrast.
Rumors are already circulating that Simmons may choose to run for his old Congressional seat currently held by US Rep. Joe Courtney. Simmons represented the 2nd district for six years before Courtney beat him by less than 100 votes in a heavily Democratic year. The Republicans have nominated Daria Novak to challenge Courtney, with former TV anchorwoman Janet Peckinpaugh waiting in the wings for a primary. Simmons is allowed to transfer his campaign funds to a House race but would have to petition his way on the ballot.