Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Richard Blumenthal may be busy struggling to explain his 2008 settlement with Countrywide Financial Friday, but Wednesday he was basking in the adoration of an estimated 80 University of Connecticut students.
The Attorney General, who was running about 20 minutes behind schedule Wednesday, seemed almost surprised to see the group of supporters packed into a room in the campus student center awaiting his arrival.
“He’s proved himself and done a lot of good,” said Stephanie Nardi, a nutritional science major. “Linda McMahon? Not so much.”
McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, is Blumenthal’s Republican opponent in the race.
Mike Pellin, a political science major and Blumenthal intern, had a similar message.
“Experience. Experience. Experience. His record has shown he has what it takes to get it done in Washington,” he said. “He’s given people a fight who couldn’t fight for themselves.”
Another student, women’s studies major Jackie Martin, said it was Blumenthal’s advocacy of women’s programs that earned her vote.
“He’s what a real politician should be,” she said.
That’s not to say that everyone on the campus wants to see Blumenthal win the seat. Joseph Gasser, president of the UConn College Republicans, was quick to condemn the Attorney General for just the sort of advocacy his classmates praised.
“Attorney General Blumenthal has abused the power of his office,” he said. Gasser said that the function of the position was to represent the state in lawsuits, not to sue businesses.
He noted that in July the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think-tank, ranked Blumenthal as second worst attorney general in United States for abusing the positions power for political gains. The same organization ranked Blumenthal the nation’s worst in 2007.
Gasser also criticized the Democrat for misrepresenting his military service in Vietnam, a topic that has been the focus of many of McMahon’s attack ads.
While Gasser said he didn’t believe Blumenthal was a chronic liar, his misstatement “shows a willingness to use the troops to serve his own needs.”
Still other students remain undecided as the Nov. 2 election approaches.
Rebecca Smith, a resource economics major and six-year veteran of the U.S. Army, said she said that while she hadn’t decided which candidate would get her vote, Blumenthal’s service record would not be a deciding factor for her.
“After John Kerry’s military service was said to be false and then later we found out that what the opposing campaign was saying about him was untrue, it makes me just not really pay that much attention to misrepresentation of service time because I don’t know which party to believe,” she said Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, political science major Dave Haseltine seemed a little unhappy with both candidates. While he said that Blumenthal has been a “good champion for consumer rights and protecting Connecticut from corporate greed,” he was turned off by what he called “boilerplate” statements about the candidate’s policies on middle-tax cuts and job creation.
But Haseltine said he was frightened at the thought of McMahon representing Connecticut in Washington. He said the former CEO of the World Wrestling Entertainment company, had long profited off the degradation of women and was unlikely to be an advocate of women’s rights in congress. But to Haseltine, who was standing in the campus quad encouraging other students to register to vote, McMahon’s biggest offense was “trying to buy an election” in his state.
Blumenthal himself echoed some of Haseltine’s sentiments in his remarks to students Wednesday.
After quickly speaking about some familiar issues- middle-class tax cuts and health care reform- Blumenthal stepped off the podium and shook the hands of many students. But before he was done speaking, he reminded the group that his campaign faces one big obstacle- Republican U.S. Senate nominee Linda McMahon’s seemingly endless spending on attack ads.
“My opponent has launched a $50 million dollar attack campaign against me,” he said but he seemed confidant voters wouldn’t be swayed by the commercials.
“Connecticut wants an election not an auction. This seat can not be bought,” he said.
Blumenthal knows how important the student vote may be in what is expected to be a very close election.
“In this race, I’m telling you right now, you will make a difference,” Blumenthal told students as he recalled the 2006 mid-term election of U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney to illustrate his point.
“He is in that office today because of University of Connecticut students,” he told them.
Courtney, who earned the nickname ‘Landslide Joe,’ won the election against former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, by a slim 83 votes.