While it is true that there are almost as many campaign maxims as there are campaigns, the one offered by Ben Davol to listeners of WNPR’s election night coverage was particularly cogent: don’t sit on a lead. Gubernatorial candidates Ned Lamont and Tom Foley were, arguably, guilty of this sin in the run-up to the Aug. 10 primary elections, costing Lamont the election and giving Mr. Foley quite a scare.
But this primary lesson, it seems, hasn’t been learned by Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal.
Mr. Blumenthal has been the frontrunner in the race quite literally since he announced his candidacy back in January. In fact, he’s been the golden boy of Connecticut Democratic politics long before that, earning such a reputation for ubiquity that it is derided by his opponents. His stature was so solid that a poor debate performance against Merrick Alpert in March and a week’s worth of negative national press attention regarding his Vietnam misstatements in May had negligible impact on his polling numbers.
In recent months though, Blumenthal has hunkered down. The man who was once a fixture at every press conference spent most of the summer doing his best impression of a ghost.
His re-emergence in the wake of the Aug. 10 primary has been uneven at best. His first foray into the post-primary contest was on Connecticut television screens, which would have been good except that his Republican opponent, Linda McMahon, ran four advertisements for every three Blumenthal ads. Pollster Scott Rasmussen revealed on Friday, Aug. 13 that the Democrat’s lead had shrunk to just seven points.
The attorney general has followed it up with the laughable assertion that he is a political “outsider”, a title that sounds good in this year of anti-incumbency but is ill-fitting for a man whose springboard to politics was using his D.C. connections to become a 31-year-old U.S. Attorney and who has toed the line for every rank-and-file Democrat the state has sent to Washington ever since.
Blumenthal’s campaign people would assuredly argue that they are building a grassroots army, conserving their resources, and that even the Republicans who have been helped by the Attorney General’s office over the last twenty years are supportive of the Democrat. They would also point out that their guy’s unfavorable numbers are seven points better than Mrs. McMahon’s, and his favorable rating is fourteen points higher.
But if there is a corollary to Mr. Davol’s advice, it is that if you aren’t on offense in politics, you are on defense. At the moment, the McMahon campaign is decidedly on offense. And to date, no political opponent has slowed her momentum. McMahon keeps charging forward while Blumenthal sits on what is, for the moment, his lead.
Heath W. Fahle is a policy analyst and consultant based in Manchester. His background in political campaigns includes work for former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons and the Connecticut Republican Party. He also is the principal of Revolutionary Strategies LLC, a website design and consulting firm. Learn more at www.heathwfahle.com.