Connecticut's Blumenthal readying for another US Senate battle; shoring up campaign funds



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HARTFORD, Connecticut — Connecticut's next U.S. Senate election may not be until November 2016, but recent political emails from Sen. Richard Blumenthal warn there's no time to waste.

"The lessons of 2014 are clear: there's no such thing as a safe seat. And anyone who isn't ready to fight back early will be drowned in special interest ads," reads one message to supporters, titled "An Ounce of Prevention."

The message reminds the recipients how Blumenthal's last opponent, former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, spent more than $50 million in the bruising 2010 campaign, and urges them to become "founding members" of the first-term Democrat's 2016 re-election campaign by contributing $5 or more.

Blumenthal, 69, has yet to formally announce he's seeking a second six-year term in the U.S. Senate, saying that will happen at an "appropriate time." But his intentions are clear. He's been taking concrete steps to ensure a return to Washington, D.C., creating a candidate committee that had about $612,000 in cash on hand as of Dec. 31; hiring staff; contracting with a fundraising consultant; and paying rent for space in Stamford.

"I am doing everything I need to do in preparing for a vigorous and effective campaign," Blumenthal said, making note that he's mostly focused on his job as a senator. "As you know from my history, I always work as the underdog, as if I am the underdog, and never take anything for granted."

While Blumenthal may think of himself as the underdog, a recent Quinnipiac University Poll shows he's actually the leader of the pack.

Poll Director Douglas Schwartz said Blumenthal has the strongest job approval ratings of any major Connecticut politician. Sixty-four percent of registered voters approve of the job he's been doing as senator, while 26 percent disapprove. Blumenthal has high approvals among Democrats and unaffiliated voters, the state's largest voting bloc. Among Republicans, 37 percent approve.

Fifty-nine percent of registered voters said Blumenthal deserve a second term. The telephone survey of 1,235 registered voters, conducted March 6-9, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

"He is going to be very, very difficult to beat. You never want to say impossible a year-and-a-half before an election, but I would say he's a strong favorite," said Schwartz, adding how the GOP must nominate a really strong candidate in order to have a chance of winning.

Jerry Labriola Jr., the chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, said his party is currently recruiting candidates.

"The fact is, Connecticut is on the short end of the stick, with no voice in the Republican majority in Congress," he said. "So it's imperative we send one or more Republicans to Washington in 2016."

Labriola believes the national Republicans will be strong in 2016, and that will help Connecticut candidates.

"Greenwich multimillionaire Dick Blumenthal may look better now than he actually is," said Labriola, adding how the polling was done without a potential opponent in the ring. "With Hillary (Clinton) imploding, my confidence is growing every day that we can ultimately put Connecticut in play."

It appears one potential Republican Senate candidate won't be available in 2016. David Walker, a lieutenant governor candidate last year, said Friday he has accepted a new job as a strategic senior adviser for PricewaterhouseCooper's public sector practice. He said he is committed to working 100 days a year, through the end of 2016.

"I don't have any current plans to run for the Senate in 2016," he said. "A number of people would like me to do that, but I don't have any current plans to do so."

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