Scott Brown campaigns for McMahon

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., makes an appearance at a rally Saturday in Milford with Linda McMahon, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Connecticut.
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., makes an appearance at a rally Saturday in Milford with Linda McMahon, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Connecticut.

Milford - U.S. Sen. Scott Brown told several hundred supporters of Linda McMahon at a midday rally in front of City Hall Saturday that they have a "great chance" of replicating his feat: defeating a Democratic attorney general to gain a Republican seat in the Senate.

"She's right here," he said to a crowd of roughly 250 supporters, pointing back at McMahon, the Republican who is waging a tough campaign against Democrat Richard Blumenthal.

Brought to Connecticut to invigorate Republican voters and independents, Brown held rallies with both McMahon and Republican gubernatorial hopeful Tom Foley on Saturday, and he did his best to amp up the crowd.

"I'm ready to get down and do 50 (pushups) right here," Brown exclaimed, after he and McMahon entered the rally as a disc jockey played the theme from the movie "The Natural." "I am pumped."

McMahon is attempting a reprise of the coup Brown pulled off in a special election in January: upsetting a once-favored, longtime Democratic attorney general for election to the Senate.

McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, is facing off with Blumenthal, while Brown knocked off Martha Coakley, the attorney general in Massachusetts, to win the seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy.

McMahon told the crowd that she had been written off in the early going, after the popular Blumenthal jumped into the race when Sen. Chris Dodd announced he wouldn't seek re-election.

"He was a shoo-in, and nobody even gave the state of Connecticut a second thought," she said. "Well, look what's happened."

McMahon has closed Blumenthal's once wide lead into a dead heat in some public polling, though a series of recent polls released in the last several weeks showed Blumenthal maintaining a nearly double-digit advantage.

McMahon's campaign staff, however, was brimming with confidence before the rally began, and have said they expect a tough fight to the finish on Nov. 2.

McMahon emphasized her background in a brief speech, declaring, as Brown did in winning his election in Massachusetts, common cause with average voters.

"I connect with the people of Connecticut," McMahon said. "I've walked in your shoes."

Her backers must not be "complacent," she added, urging those at the rally to vote for her, and to tell 10 friends each to do the same.

"We need to take control of our country and our government again," she said.

Cheers and chants

The crowd was spirited as they listened to an array of warm-up speakers, capped by a plea for participation from David Cappiello, a former state senator who is McMahon's campaign manager.

When McMahon and Brown emerged from the City Hall doors and approached the podium, there were loud cheers and chants of her first name, while a smaller group of Blumenthal supporters in the back of the crowd booed.

The rally was remarkably brief. While supporters were already beginning to gather two hours before the candidate appeared, Brown spoke for just five minutes, and McMahon for only seven.

The crowd also heard from Jim Beringer, a Vietnam veteran who said he was motivated to volunteer for McMahon after reports that Blumenthal has at least several times stated that he served in Vietnam during the war. Blumenthal was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve; he did not serve overseas.

Blumenthal has apologized for those remarks, which he characterized as rare and isolated misstatements.

"There is no confusion in my mind about where I was in that tour," Beringer said of his experience in Vietnam. "And I have never misspoken about my military service."

There were counter-protesters, too, including union carpenters holding a "Carpenters for Blumenthal" sign, and others who held signs denouncing McMahon's record as an employer and the tea party movement.

"Tea Party = racism," one sign said, while another alluded to the steroid scandals that have plagued the WWE. "Steroids ain't vitamins," it read.

But the vast majority of the crowd was made up of McMahon supporters such as Benigno Deju, who stood with a blue "Linda" sign held high over his head. Deju is a native of Cuba, he said, who returned to the country as a believer in Fidel Castro's revolution, but fled two years later, dispirited by life under Communism.

Like others at the rally, he said he believed that the Obama administration's efforts to reform health care and the financial sector represented a move in the direction of socialism.

"I vote for freedom, and anything to stop the destruction of this country that's happening now," he said. "I would be for anyone who is against what this president is trying to do."

Tom Scott, a former state senator and radio host, took aim at Obama, but also at Blumenthal. He compared the attorney general to the small plastic man atop a wedding cake.

Blumenthal is like "a plastic figurine, a phony," Scott said. To re-elect him, he declared, would bring on "six long years of Chris Dodd II."

The crowd booed.

t.mann@theday.com

Sally Blum, center, of Quemado, N.M., holds a Linda McMahon sign in front of a sign reading 'Carpenters for Blumenthal' held by Louie Cocozza, of Brookfield, at a rally Saturday in Milford for McMahon.
Sally Blum, center, of Quemado, N.M., holds a Linda McMahon sign in front of a sign reading "Carpenters for Blumenthal" held by Louie Cocozza, of Brookfield, at a rally Saturday in Milford for McMahon.
Linda McMahon, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, greets supporters at a rally Saturday in Milford.
Linda McMahon, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, greets supporters at a rally Saturday in Milford.

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