Blumenthal maintaining a low profile - but why?

If it weren't for Linda McMahon, Connecticut voters just might forget that Richard Blumenthal is running for the U.S. Senate.

As July dawns, campaigns around the state of Connecticut are clamoring for attention, trying to push their candidates into the spotlight.

Even McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment who has avoided formal press conferences for months, has begun releasing a public schedule and encouraging reporters to schedule one-on-one interviews.

But while the McMahon campaign has also been hammering away at Blumenthal, the campaign of the usually ubiquitous Blumenthal has been very quiet.

With the exception of a handful of public pronouncements from the office of the attorney general, which Blumenthal has occupied for nearly 20 years, the candidate has been in absentia.

How one interprets Blumenthal's lower profile depends on partisan affiliation.

"I think he's keeping himself under wraps," said Chris Healy, the chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party and an unrelenting critic of Blumenthal. "This is a man who keeps his own counsel. He obviously has realized that when he walks among the great unwashed, things don't go his way."

To Jonathan Pelto, a Democratic consultant, Blumenthal is employing a textbook strategy. With a lead in polls, and retaining sky-high name recognition from his years as attorney general, Blumenthal is running down the clock, Pelto said, comparing the campaign to the strategy of a winning team in basketball before the introduction of the shot clock.

"You need to do as little as possible to affect the present position you're in," Pelto said. "What you're really doing now is, you're doing things that have little risk. So that's why they've shifted back to the good old press conferences of the attorney general's office because those are little risk with high return."

Michael Cacace, a Stamford attorney who has chaired each of Blumenthal's political races since his days in the state Senate more than two decades ago, said the candidate is maintaining the same "breakneck speed" as ever.

If the ubiquitous candidate seems a little less ubiquitous, Cacace said, that is partly because he entered the Senate contest relatively late - jumping in after Sen. Chris Dodd bowed out in January, months after a bid would ordinarily have begun - and because Blumenthal is forced to balance the demands of the full-time job of attorney general with the toil of candidacy.

There is also the matter of money. Any campaign for the U.S. Senate would require more fundraising than one of Blumenthal's attorney general bids, Cacace said, and in this race he faces McMahon, a multimillionaire who has said she would spend as much as $50 million on her quest for the seat.

So Blumenthal's been spending hours of call time, trying to raise money, and that has cut into his pace of campaign appearances and rallies.

"Not only during his campaigns, but in interim periods, he has earned a reputation for being all over the state," Cacace said. "Some of that needs to be abbreviated here, because he can't make all the events he used to make."

"I can tell you from my perspective it doesn't seem like anyone's slowing down over there," said Lon Seidman, a political consultant, member of the Democratic State Central Committee and husband of Melissa Ozols, who works as Blumenthal's campaign scheduler. "She comes home exhausted every night of the week. I think they're working extremely hard."

Still, only months removed from the Martha Coakley/Scott Brown Senate race in Massachusetts - in which another well-liked but arguably complacent attorney general was defeated by a relative newcomer - there is private grumbling among some Democrats about the pace and aggressiveness of Blumenthal's campaign.

Several Democrats complained privately that the campaign had seemed "insular" and had not moved aggressively enough against McMahon and the Republicans.

Pelto also said Blumenthal had seemed in some early campaign appearances to be "unprepared to shift into a dialogue on national issues."

But Pelto, and other Democrats who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they did not believe Blumenthal had been knocked off his game by the revelation that he has repeatedly misstated his military service record, and would soon take a more high-profile stance in the campaign.

"I'd say that, from my very personal experience back in 1990, Dick will figure out what is the best way to get over any small bumps in the road, and I'm sure will still win a smashing victory," said Jay Levin, a former state representative from New London who lost a hard-fought primary for attorney general to Blumenthal that year.

Others, like former party Chairman John F. Droney, thought it was far too soon for all but the narrowest band of political insiders to be worried about November and the general election.

The public "isn't really paying attention yet," said Droney, who added that Healy, the Republican chairman, was "doing his job to stir up as much trouble and make Dick look as bad as he can - and God bless him for it - but that doesn't make it true."

The public, Droney said, won't be paying much attention until after Labor Day.

"Joe Sixpack and the guy trying to see if he's got enough money to take a trip over the Fourth of July weekend don't really give two [expletive] about it," he said.


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