The Republican candidate shunned by President Bush, the GOP establishment and many in his party is hoping conservative groups will get behind his longshot bid for the Connecticut Senate seat.
Alan Schlesinger, who has ignored calls from some Republicans to abandon his candidacy, planned a two-day trip to Washington to test his call for fiscal conservatism with outside organizations.
Appearing Tuesday on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, Schlesinger said it's all Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman's fault, adding he hasn't heard once from Karl Rove, the party's strategist. “Washington folks aren't talking to me,” he said, “They're taking their orders from the party."
"I am the sacrificial lamb,” Schlesinger told Matthews, “And I'll tell you what, they're not paying attention in Connecticut."
"We're trying to move this campaign on the issues," Schlesinger said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Monday. "There's been enough about the horse races. Now we're going to talk about issues."
The Connecticut Senate race shapes up as a two-man contest between three-term Sen. Joe Lieberman, who is running as an independent after his party's rebuff in the Aug. 8 primary, and anti-war candidate Ned Lamont, the Democratic nominee.
Polls show Schlesinger with single-digit support that has been dropping. Yet, Schlesinger says he has support, telling Matthews, "I've been getting so many e-mails saying, 'I'm all in with Alan.'"
Lieberman has secured endorsements from Republicans and won praise from the Bush administration for his staunch support of the Iraq war. With the race cast as a referendum on Bush's Iraq policies, some Republicans argue that a Lieberman win in a Democratic-leaning Northeastern state would be a boost for the administration.
Schlesinger got a blunt reminder on where the GOP stands on Monday.
During a news conference, Bush said he had no intention of backing Schlesinger, a former state representative who has been dogged by questions about his gambling.
"I'm staying out of Connecticut because, you know, that's what the party suggested, the Republican Party of Connecticut," Bush told reporters. "And, plus, there's a better place to spend our money, time and resources."
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., has endorsed Lieberman, saying Schlesinger has no chance of winning. The National Republican Senatorial Committee said last week it had no plans to help Schlesinger because it was not a competitive race.
Schlesinger complains that Washington interests on both sides are trying to hijack the race for their own ends. He also blames the news media for focusing attention on negative aspects of his campaign.
Schlesinger's campaign ran into flak in July after it was learned that he used a fake name to gamble at a Connecticut casino and had been sued over gambling debts at New Jersey casinos. Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, urged him to drop out of the race, but Schlesinger called the gambling a "non-issue" and remained.
While his two foes have already collected and spent millions, Schlesinger has raised just $113,581, including a $50,000 loan to his campaign, as of June 30, according to his latest campaign finance report.
Schlesinger, however, voiced confidence his fiscal conservatism would be a key selling point when he meets with political action committees and others to boost his candidacy.
"I am extremely different from Lieberman and Lamont," he said. "I am not an ostrich. I do not put my head in the sand as to the massive unfunded liability in the entitlement programs."
There may be some small consolation for Schlesinger. He says he has been invited for a three-way debate with Lamont and Lieberman, but no debate date has been made available.