Obama Will Try to Boost Democratic Senate Candidate Richard Blumenthal in Conn.

September 16, 2010 - 9:46 AM

Richard Blumenthal

Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Richard Blumenthal speaks with retired Marines during a campaign stop in Danbury, Conn. on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010. (AP Photo /Matt Ford)

Fairfield, Conn. (AP) - Democrat Richard Blumenthal, a four-decade veteran of Connecticut politics, has slipped in polls as Republican former wrestling executive Linda McMahon has pumped millions from her personal fortune into their contentious and tight Senate race.

President Barack Obama, whose own popularity has fallen in this reliably Democratic state, is attending private fundraisers Thursday in Stamford hoping to buoy Blumenthal and help the party retain the seat of retiring Sen. Chris Dodd.

It's going to be a tough haul in an environment that is punishing experience and candidates' ties to the establishment, traits Blumenthal does not deny.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday showed Blumenthal with a 51 percent to 45 percent lead among likely voters. Blumenthal had enjoyed a lead of 10 percentage points among registered voters in last month's poll and had been 17 points up in July's poll.

McMahon, whose family built massive wealth as owners of World Wrestling Entertainment, has pledged to spend $50 million to win the race. Blumenthal's campaign officials acknowledge they can't match that.

Linda McMahon

Connecticut Republican U.S. Senate Republican candidate Linda McMahon takes a phone call in Cromwell, Conn., on Aug. 10, 2010. (AP File Photo/Charles Krupa)

"I have established a record better than any amount of money," Blumenthal said during an interview. "We'll raise what we need to raise."

As volunteers prepared to go out and knock doors for him, Blumenthal told them, "The people of Connecticut want an election, not an auction."

McMahon's campaign retort: "This is an election, not a coronation. And Dick Blumenthal's suggestion that voters can be bought is an insult," said spokesman Shawn McCoy.

Facing the prospect of being vastly outspent, Blumenthal's campaign is trying to counter McMahon's topflight political machine with one-on-one campaigning and by highlighting his record of challenging special interests and fighting corruption as the state's attorney general.

As he walked through the Taste of Danbury food festival last weekend, he bought local barbecue sauce and promised young gymnasts he would come back and do handstands if he wins in November. He then talked about the state's consumer protection work.

"I always watch him on Channel 8. I know Richard Blumenthal," said Karen Ryan, a self-described Democrat from Derby. But she hinted at a problem he faces: Most voters know who he is, but few know much about the campaign he is running.

"Is Blumenthal a Democrat or a Republican?" Ryan asked.

McMahon has run an aggressive campaign. She didn't shy from her campaign's role in aiding a New York Times story about Blumenthal on occasion misstating his record of service during the Vietnam War. On some recordings, he is shown saying he served "in" Vietnam, rather than the accurate description that he served stateside during that war.

While McMahon and Republicans have hammered him for that, it seems to have lost its oomph. McMahon's campaign has taken those attacks out of its rotation of glossy -- and expensive -- campaign mail pieces.

But she is still blanketing the state with other ads -- including in the pricey New York City media market -- and packing mailboxes with fancy brochures. At town fairs and festivals, her volunteers wave signs and pass out stickers, overshadowing the more modest Blumenthal efforts.

Obama's visit is intended to help Blumenthal raise both his profile and some needed campaign cash. But the events will be private. Blumenthal said he hopes to have a public event with the president before November. Right now, though, he needs money.

Plus, it's not as if Obama is an answer to all that ails Blumenthal's campaign. Obama won Connecticut during the 2008 presidential campaign with 61 percent of the vote. Now, 51 percent of voters disapprove of his job performance as president, according to the Quinnipiac poll.