AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
The Republican Party hasn’t won a U.S. Senate election in Connecticut since 1982, and hasn’t won a U.S. House seat there since 2004. But this year, the combined factors of both a promising national environment for Republicans and an incumbent Senator who appears to have lost touch with his voters has the GOP hopeful that a strong candidate just might flip the state’s Senate seat for the first time in decades.
According to a recent poll, the Republican Party is within striking distance of Connecticut’s two-term Senator Richard Blumenthal. In the midst of a hotly-contested three-way Republican primary, Blumenthal’s closest challenger is only ten points behind the career politician. While this may seem like a large lead on paper, considering Blumenthal’s name recognition in the state, his lack of a primary challenge, and the fact that Republicans have not yet selected their nominee, these numbers should be concerning indeed for Blumenthal’s camp.
Even before the campaign has begun, Blumenthal is just barely reaching 50% in head-to-head match-ups—and the attacks on him haven’t yet started.
Once the Republican nominee is selected in the August 9th primary, Blumenthal’s lead could shrink, quickly posing a threat to the Democrat incumbent this November.
In another sign that Election Day could be tougher than expected for Blumenthal, as of May 26th, Blumenthal is polling lower than any point in his decade-long Senate career. Currently, only 45% of Connecticut voters approve of his job performance, while 43% disapprove. If historical trends are any indication, this is squarely in the danger zone for an incumbent—and these numbers are likely to get worse for Blumenthal throughout the summer and fall.
Many Democratic strategists dismiss Blumenthal’s low approval ratings as simply reflective of the overall discontent voters feel toward President Biden and the Democrat-controlled Congress. But this analysis misses the fact that Blumenthal is a member of that Congress and, with Joe Biden not on the ballot until 2024, voters are looking for an opportunity to punish anyone associated with him. That’s particularly worrying for a Senator like Blumenthal who has voted in lockstep with the President’s priorities throughout this Congress, and who has been a visible face of his party in regular appearances on cable news for years.
For Blumenthal, these latest polling woes in a typically blue state must come as a shock. The second-term Senator originally rose to prominence while serving as Connecticut Attorney General, carefully cultivating a reputation for taking on tough battles and acting as more of an independent actor rather than in-house counsel for the state government—although this was always more self-made myth than reality. As a Wall Street Journal profile noted back in 2010, Blumenthal “became the prototype for hyperactive attorneys general across the country following his first election to the post in 1990” and “used the office to advance by litigation what the left could not achieve through legislation.”
Yet the personal narrative Blumenthal cultivated about himself as A.G. quickly began to unravel when he ran for U.S. Senate in 2010, and in the 12 years since, his image has devolved from that of a tough prosecutor into that of a partisan left-wing hack eager to spout the party’s daily talking points on CNN just as often as they’re willing to have him.
As a sign of things to come, Blumenthal during his 2010 campaign falsely implied to a group of veterans that he served in Vietnam. In reality, he made multiple deferments before finally becoming Marine Reservist based in Washington D.C., a position that guaranteed he would never see combat. The scandal later earned him the diminutive nickname “Da Nang Dick” from President Donald Trump.
In 2016, Senator Blumenthal took a permanent turn toward the far left when he became one of the most full-throated and aggressive promoters of the debunked conspiracy theory that Russian President Vladimir Putin had “stolen” the election for Donald Trump. Blumenthal asserted in 2017 that the Trump administration’s refusal to address the Trump-Russia Collusion Hoax was “a rejection of reality” and “rotten to the core.” Even after the Steele Dossier was discredited, the Senator continued this line of attack, as one of the most public faces of the Russia Collusion hoax. In late 2017, Blumenthal even went so far as to sue President Trump for, he claimed, violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. The suit was later thrown out for “lack of standing,” although it also obviously lacked genuine legal merit.
In the leadup to the 2020 election, Blumenthal theorized that Russia was planning to steal another election, and that Trump was attempting to cover it up by failing to disclose Top Secret documents to the general public. Then, after the election, Blumenthal performed a 180 and joined his fellow Democrats claiming it was the “most secure election in history.”
As if that weren’t enough to inspire a crisis of confidence in Blumenthal’s judgement among Connecticut voters, just last year the Senator ignited a media firestorm after speaking at an event associated with the Communist Party. Only after intense public backlash did he publicly affirm his commitment to capitalism.
While many in the media have been quick to move on from each of Blumenthal’s humiliating missteps and contrivances, voters have shown that they have a better memory. To be sure, Blumenthal still has time to make up ground, and Connecticut remains a heavily Democratic state. Ousting an incumbent like Blumenthal will take the right combination of an exceptional Republican candidate, a rock-solid campaign, continued voter frustrations toward Democratic governance, and perhaps one or two more major blunders on Blumenthal’s part before November. But given recent history and in a year like 2022, that possibility seems far from impossible.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.
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