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"It looks like Connecticut voters forgive Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, or feel that there is nothing to forgive in the Vietnam service flap," said poll director Douglas Schwartz.
By Associated Press Writer
updated 5/27/2010 12:48:05 PM ET 2010-05-27T16:48:05

About a week after acknowledging he "misspoke" about his military service during the Vietnam era, a new poll released Thursday shows Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal remains popular among Connecticut voters and maintains a double-digit lead in the race.

The Quinnipiac University Poll, conducted May 24-25, shows Blumenthal leading the endorsed Republican Senate candidate, former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, by a 56 percent to 31 percent margin in the race to fill the seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. Chris Dodd.

Blumenthal had led McMahon 61 percent to 28 percent in a March 17 survey.

"It looks like Connecticut voters forgive Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, or feel that there is nothing to forgive in the Vietnam service flap," said poll director Douglas Schwartz. "While he has taken a hit with voters, his poll numbers were so high to begin with that he still maintains a commanding lead over Linda McMahon."

After the New York Times first reported on its website on May 17 that Blumenthal misstated his military service during Vietnam on various occasions, the longtime attorney general came forward at a news conference and acknowledged he unintentionally said he served "in" Vietnam when he meant "during" Vietnam.

Blumenthal served stateside as a Marine Reserve during the Vietnam era.

Forty-one percent of voters said the controversy was very important or somewhat important to their vote in the general election, while 57 percent said it was not too important or not important at all.

Sixty-one percent said the controversy surrounding Blumenthal's misstatements didn't make a difference in how they plan to vote for the Democrat in November, while 33 percent said it makes them less likely to vote for him.

McMahon, who acknowledged her campaign provided the Times with some information for the article, received her party's endorsement last weekend, besting former Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, who announced Tuesday he was ending his campaign but leaving his name on the Aug. 10 primary ballot.

Simmons told the National Review this week that he does not think McMahon can win the general election, saying "No, I don't think so at all." Asked what he'll do if McMahon asks him for help on the trail, "he says he'll say he is 'preoccupied,'" the publication reported.

Video: Will Blumenthal's misstep affect his candidacy? Simmons, who did not immediately return several calls from The Associated Press, said McMahon's biggest issue is her family's World Wrestling Entertainment, where she was the CEO until jumping into the Senate race last fall.

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"While she was there, they had a mentally-handicapped character, Eugene, who they thought was humorous. I find that whole issue, and how it was handled by (McMahon), severely disappointing," Simmons told the National Review. He said McMahon has "countless entertainment products that she'll have to defend, especially when Democrats make them known to the public in coming months."

Politico.com reported Wednesday that the former congressman apologized for the remarks during an interview, calling them "a little harsh" and adding, "I talked too much and I'm sorry."

Despite her convention success, the new Quinnipiac poll shows that McMahon's popularity has worsened. When asked to give their opinion of McMahon, who said she will spend as much as $50 million of her own money on the race, 32 percent said they had a favorable opinion while 39 percent had an unfavorable opinion and 27 percent hadn't heard enough about her.

The March 17 survey showed 36 percent had a favorable opinion of her while 26 percent had an unfavorable opinion.

McMahon's campaign called the Quinnipiac Poll results "curious and perhaps odd," citing other recent polls that showed the race tighter.

"Connecticut voters are clearly frustrated with Washington, and they do not believe Washington will change by electing more career politicians. By every objective measure, Linda's message of economic recovery and job creation is resonating and this campaign has momentum," according to a statement from the campaign.

Blumenthal leads McMahon on all of the poll's questions about personal attributes, such as having the right experience to be a senator, caring about the needs and problems of people, strong leadership qualities and being honest and trustworthy.

The Democrat, however, took his biggest hit on the question of honesty and trustworthiness. While 60 percent agreed that he is, that's a 21 percentage point drop from a Jan. 14 Quinnipiac University poll in which 81 percent said he's honest and trustworthy.

Forty-five percent of respondents said McMahon has those attributes.

Quinnipiac conducted a telephone survey of 1,159 registered voters. The poll has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.


Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Politicians start to self-destruct

  1. Closed captioning of: Politicians start to self-destruct

    >> shared too much information.

    >>> supersenate tuesday may be behind us but new story lines continue to emerge. two of last week's big winners republican rand paul and democrat dick blumenthal suffering from self-inflicted wounds. mark mckinnon who's advised both democrats and republicans most recently both former president george w. bush and republican john mccain . mark, i want to write something here you say about rand paul in trying to sort of give him a little bit of advice this morning. you write like many with libertarian roots, he wants to teach, preach and proselytize. paul thinks most of us are just ill informed about the evils of government. if he can mon noize a microphone, he'll indoctrinate us.

    >> one of the main worries had about paul , he may view himself as the first senator of the libertarian party .

    >> very much, chuck. i think that i'm glad you brought up a baseball metaphor because his trying to go out and deal because his id to try to go up against rachael mad dow was like trying to go up against. one of the three reasons why he might have done that, one was bad staff work to go on a program like that. two was he needs the media spotlight, and, third is that he really has that sense of mission about going out and preaching the libertarian point of view. and as we saw with his father, it's unique, it's quirky, it ee kind of interesting, but its practical application to real life politics can be highly problematic. now the tea party is associated with rand paul may be defined by rand paul and how he runs his campaign.

    >> my concern with the advice or that you're implying in your answer is, well, he should stay off of places where he may get tough questions. is that really what he should do between now and november is just go to wherever he's going to get some home cooking ?

    >> no, not at all, but i think he ought to -- he needs a little spring training before he does. you know, he needs to be clear about what his positions are, and he needs to -- and he's got to be careful about getting into conceptual hypothetical answers and he needs to know his audience before going on television and be clear and concise about his answers, mar than he was when he came out of the box. it wasn't clear, wasn't compelling, wasn't rational, wasn't well articulated. he should go out there and i would encourage him to go into the lion's den. i think that can be very audiences that aren't necessarily supportive. in a lot of ways you can get a lot of points for doing that, but you need to be ready for it when you do.

    >> moving on to damage control, dick blumenthal . the story breaks on monday. on tuesday he holds a press conference, no apology. this morning an e-mail apology to the hartford current, obviously clearly wanted to send a message. wasn't going to send it to the new york times. how is he handling this situation in your assess management right now?

    >> well, what he did today is what he should have done a week ago. you know, voters have a great capacity today to forgive and they don't expect perfection from their candidates. in fact, today they really would like to see humanity rather than somebody going out and trying to pretend like they're perfect. and this is a case where he clearly screwed up, he clearly had been mischaracterizing his record for a long time, and then he went on attack against the mcmahon campaign and the media for mischaracterizing what had happened when everyone knew what had really gone down. if he had done a week ago what he did today, it would have been a lot better. it's good he did it today, but it is a democratic statement. i think he's got a chance to rebound, but he should have done it right out of the box.

    >> very quickly, it does seem as if you think both rand paul and dick blumenthal can recover from this.

    >> it's good lessons. it's early on in the campaign and it's the good news. it wasn't late when they didn't have a chance to recover. one of the things that can happen to you is a mistake early from which you learn and then you go on and build a solid campaign.

    >> all right. mark mackinnon , i believe you're joining us from austin, texas, this morning. we're coming back right after this.

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