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« The Week Ahead: Expecting The Unexpected | Blog Home Page | Idaho Primary Sets Up Top House Race »

Blumenthal Camp: Vietnam Issue Behind Us

Richard Blumenthal went from Senate shoe-in to political punch line after the New York Times reported on his past misstatements of his Vietnam-era service. But in the span of the week, his campaign now argues that he has successfully navigated through the immediate crisis to the point where Democrats can feel confident again that the party will hold his seat come November.

To bolster that argument, the Connecticut attorney general's campaign released results of an internal poll showing that he maintained a substantial advantage over one of his potential general election foes, WWE executive Linda McMahon. The Greenberg Quinlan Rosner survey, conducted May 19-20, found Blumenthal leading 55-40. A Rasmussen poll released last week found the same matchup much tighter.

"His deep roots and connection with people in Connecticut make him a very tough guy to knock down," a polling memo argues.

In the latest effort to counter the story, Blumenthal today penned a personal apology in the Hartford Courant. "I have made mistakes and I am sorry. I truly regret offending anyone,'' he wrote.

When the Times story first broke, it was clear that the immediate 48 hours would be critical to the survival of his campaign. Within hours, the campaign issued a strong statement on the matter and advised a press conference the next day. Blumenthal, surrounded by veterans, explained that he misspoke but defended his record. By Friday, the Connecticut Democratic Party nominated him by acclamation at its convention; statements of support -- some stronger than others -- also came from national party officials and the White House.

"This ended up being a textbook case in crisis management," said a Democratic strategist who was involved in the effort.

The McMahon campaign called the latest apology too little too late.

"The statement Dick Blumenthal released in the dead of night yesterday cannot be construed as an apology because it ignores what is at the heart of the controversy surrounding him: false and misleading statements designed to deceive," campaign spokesman Ed Patru said. "He is sorry for not being 'clear or precise' in his word choice and he is sorry for 'offending anyone,' but until Dick Blumenthal is sorry for purposely embellishing his military record and deceiving the people of Connecticut, his apology is a hollow one."

The Democratic strategist acknowledged that the issue can never entirely be put to bed, but that the degree to which they have navigated out of a potential disaster bodes well.

"He's got to be careful that he doesn't make any new misstatements going forward," the strategist said. "But at the end of the day, even people who are nervous or who may not like what happened with him are going to rally behind him, because he's a guy who's been fighting from Connecticut for 20 years versus a woman who's been making money off of whatever you want to call the WWE."

And if the opponent is not McMahon, who won support at her party's convention this weekend, but instead Rob Simmons -- would it be a bigger issue then?

"Maybe, if the whole election was about Vietnam service maybe," he said. "But if the election is about a guy who's been fighting for Connecticut for 20 years versus a guy who was in Congress fighting for the Bush agenda, I think the Blumenthal people would take that."