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« Idaho Primary Sets Up Top House Race | Blog Home Page | ID-1: Labrador Upsets Ward In GOP Primary »

In Conn., No Love Lost For Simmons, McMahon

It was certainly no unity celebration in New London this morning as former Connecticut congressman Rob Simmons ended his campaign for Senate. After losing the state GOP's endorsement Friday, Simmons faced a tough road ahead in the primary against Linda McMahon -- the wealthy, former professional wrestling executive whom the state party preferred.

According to his prepared remarks, Simmons never mentioned McMahon by name, including when he promised to help other Republicans get elected in November. But he listed his severe financial disadvantage as the reason for dropping out.

"Speaking for myself and my family, however, we understand the mathematical reality of competing against an opponent with unlimited financial resources who has already invested over 16 and a half million dollars in this campaign - by far more than any senate candidate in the country - and who has an unlimited ability to continue spending at an extraordinary rate," he said.

It's not surprising, since the Simmons campaign has spent the last several months attacking McMahon's record at World Wrestling Entertainment. Just last week, in the wake of bad press for Democrat Richard Blumenthal, Simmons campaign manager Jim Barnett said that McMahon suffered from "fundamental character defects" and that her record would soon catch up to her as well.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, though, jumped behind McMahon right away.

"As a successful businesswoman who is ready to restore much-needed checks-and-balances to Washington, I know that Linda McMahon will run an exemplary campaign against Richard Blumenthal," said NRSC Chairman John Cornyn. "We're confident that Linda McMahon will make this Senate seat in Connecticut a competitive pick-up opportunity for Republicans this November."

The seat appeared safer for Democrats following the retirement of longtime Sen. Chris Dodd and the entrance by Blumenthal, a well-known and popular attorney general. But a couple of recent New York Times articles -- including one last week detailing his past misstatements about his military record -- have put the state back on the GOP's map of offensive territory.

Simmons, who is a decorated Vietnam veteran, thought his record would compare favorably against Blumenthal's. But by staying in the race, both candidates would be forced spend money, and to keep the focus and criticism on each other rather than Blumenthal.

With the Republican nominee now known, the Blumenthal campaign can also now put its sights solely on McMahon. A statement released this morning indicates the line of attack Blumenthal will take in the months ahead.

"The people of Connecticut face a clear, stark choice between Dick Blumenthal, who will continue standing up for them against powerful interests on issues that matter, like their jobs and health care," said Blumenthal campaign manager Mindy Myers, "and Linda McMahon's self interest that's gained her multi-million dollar profits peddling steroid-fueled violence to our kids, exploiting her workers, and obstructing investigations into possible crimes under her watch."

While slamming McMahon as a "wrestling mogul who made her millions peddling violence to kids," the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sought to tie Simmons's exit to a growing trend around the country.

"Simmons is only the latest Republican moderate to fall in their bloodletting civil war," said DSCC spokesman Eric Schultz. "The battle between the Republican establishment and the fringe of their party does not seem to be a close one. The moderates keep losing."