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.
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.
"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.