On Friday, just four days before the general election, Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Dick Blumenthal spent his morning chatting with Ellington residents at the home of a family who credits him with standing up to an insurance company for them after they lost their home in a fire.
Blumenthal greeted a group of about 40 supporters at the home of Sarah Gaer, who was featured in one of Blumenthal’s early campaign commercials. Gaer and her husband Neil lost their home in 2007 when it burned down.
During the hour-long event Gaer recalled the desperation she felt at losing the house. Afterwards, while her family was staying in a hotel, she said received a call from Blumenthal, who had heard about the fire.
“In a moment when we felt so powerless, so alone, you were a voice that stood up for us,” she told him soon after he arrived.
Blumenthal seized on the opportunity to drive home a familiar message—that he will fight for the people of Connecticut.
“I want to fight for people and work for them,” he said, “sometimes when they have nowhere else to turn.” He added that what he thought of as his biggest cases as Attorney General weren’t the high-profile lawsuits; they were opportunities he had to help individuals.
And that message seemed to resonate with the voters in the room, who seemed unanimously tired of the race’s negative attack ads that have dominated the television and radio waves.
It’s one reason Christy Ryan of Ellington believes the results of the latest Quinnipiac University poll that shows Blumenthal with a 61 to 35 percent lead over his Republican opponent Linda McMahon among women voters.
“I think his latest ad, ‘You Know Me,’ helped with women [voters],” she said. “It seemed heartfelt and warmer. Linda McMahon seems cold and sterile to me.”
Ryan’s opinion seems supported by the polls.
“Linda McMahon has tried to raise Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s negatives over the last several weeks, but she hasn’t been successful,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Doug Schwartz earlier this week. “He remains popular, but McMahon’s own negatives have risen above 50 percent. One has to wonder if over the last few weeks McMahon would have been better off spending more of her millions on positive ads.”
But Jean Risley of Coventry offered a different explanation why women seem to favor Blumenthal. Despite being a woman, McMahon doesn’t seem to have any stance on womens issues, she said.
“She hasn’t sold me on one women’s issue at all… nothing,” she said. “I don’t even know if she has any.”
Risley said that Blumenthal has, as attorney general, been active on issues that have affected her.
“He tries to take care of issues that affect us, that’s why women like him,” she said.
But Blumenthal said he felt his support from women was due to his 20 years of service to the state.
“I think people know I’m going to stand up for them, just as I have for 20 years as attorney general,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re women or men.”
Even veterans, who have been at the center of many of McMahon’s attack ads criticizing Blumenthal for mischaracterizing his own service during the Vietnam War, seem turned off by the campaign’s mudslinging.
“There’s so much negativity and I think what we really need to do is just put the best person in that slot,” said Greg Kitchen of Glastonbury who served in the Army during the Vietnam War. Kitchen said that if Blumenthal had misstated his service, it still wouldn’t change his vote. “I think there’s probably dirty laundry in everyone’s closet if you look hard enough.”
When asked if the ads regarding Blumenthal’s service had any effect on his vote, Army Reserve Sergeant Major Jon Beaulieu said “none whatsoever.”
“He’s always taken the time to speak at veteran’s events and seems dedicated to their issues,” he said.
Beaulieu, a Reiki master, was at the event to ask Blumenthal to look into establishing a national baseline for holistic healing practitioners. The industry is plagued by people who have no real training in the field but charge patients for services nonetheless, he said.
James Dooley of Enfield, another Vietnam vet and self-described Republican, said he felt the ads took Blumenthal’s statements out of context. Dooley said he once met Blumenthal at a Navy event where the attorney general openly admitted to him that he was a Marine during the conflict but only served stateside.
The $50 million McMahon has said she will spend on the campaign also made him nervous, he said.
“If Linda wants to spend $50 million, I have to wonder what the return on that investment is,” he asked, adding that despite his party affiliation, he’d be voting for Blumenthal. “I fought in Vietnam for the right to vote and she can’t buy that vote.”