A Republican Upset in Connecticut?

| Tue Sep. 14, 2010 8:53 AM PDT

Things aren't looking so hot for Democrats in the Connecticut Senate race, where a once fairly secure seat could end up flipping for the GOP. The latest poll from Quinnipiac shows Democratic candidate Richard Blumenthal leading Republican challenger, World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon, by just 6 points at 51-45 percent. The seat is currently held by retiring Sen. Chris Dodd in a state that hasn't swung for a Republican Senator since 1982. After Dodd decided not to run in light of his plummeting popularity in the state, Blumenthal, the popular attorney general, quickly became the front-runner in the race.

But it seems like McMahon has managed to ride the anti-Democratic wave to gain ground against Blumenthal, even though she's taken significantly more conservative positions than the Republicans who've typically come from Connecticut. Calling the race "surprising close," Quinnipiac notes that most McMahon supporters aren't necessarily crazy about her personally—but they're eager to cast a vote against Blumenthal, an staunch Democrat, in a state with big financial services firms that weren't too thrilled with the Wall Street reform bill. Though Democrats were probably relieved when Dodd decided not to run—alleged ethics violations and other baggage had clouded his race—Blumenthal will invariably be associated with the Democratic establishment and financial reform law that Dodd led to passage. And Linda McMahon has pledged to spend more than $50 million of her own fortune on the campaign, nearly half of which she's already spent on her primary campaign.

Blumenthal did become a popular figure in the state for his populist crusades against Big Tobacco, HMOs, and other corporate bad actors, but he's not a stellar campaigner. His bumbling on the trail has led some observers to call him "Martha Coakley in pants"—an unflattering comparison to the Democratic AG who went down in flames back in January in the Senate race against Scott Brown. Then the New York Times went after him for making allegedly misleading statements about his military service. Finally, Blumenthal will have a tough time drawing out the urban, minority voters in the state who came out in droves in 2008 for Obama's election (and ended up ousting moderate Republicans like Rep. Chris Shays in the process). Blumenthal still has a decent chance of winning—Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight gives him a 93 percent chance—but only if the Democrats don't get complacent and presume his victory is in the bag.

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