GOP Candidate Simmons Seeks To Gain Off Blumenthal’s Vietnam Scandal

Until Monday, Rob Simmons was, arguably, a long shot for Chris Dodd’s Senate seat. The Republican was trailing wealthy executive Linda McMahon for the GOP nod, and was behind uber-popular Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) by more than 20 points.

Then Blumenthal was outed for saying he had served in Vietnam when he never had.

Simmons, a Vietnam War veteran with two Bronze Stars, has gone full court press on the attorney general’s scandal. He’s running fund-raising ads, holdings press conferences and blasting out videos and press releases touting his own military service.“We’re capitalizing on that, and highlighting the sharp contrast between the service records of Rob Simmons and Richard Blumenthal,” Simmons campaign spokesman Raj Shah told TPMDC this morning.

Although Blumenthal took a nosedive in a poll conducted after the story broke, he’s still leading. His lead over McMahon has dropped from 14 points to just three, and stands at 48-45 in this latest poll. And his lead over Simmons was cut in half, from 23 points to 11.

It’s not clear yet how much lasting damage the Vietnam story will inflict.

So the Simmons campaign is doing the best they can. In one ad that’s running on the Drudge Report and other sites, a black and white photo of Blumenthal appears next to the words, “Blumenthal lied about Vietnam,” above a blue “Donate now” button.

Here’s a screengrab:

“I respect Richard Blumenthal’s own service which is deserving of its own admiration, but he owes is an apology to those whose heroism he has undeservedly capitalized on for his personal political purposes,” Simmons said in a press conference yesterday.

But the Simmons campaign has also seen an opportunity to go after McMahon, the WWE exec who at first took credit for giving the Vietnam story to the New York Times, ahead of the Republican state convention this weekend. Her record is far from unimpeachable, Simmons contends. Earlier this year, the Hartford Courant reported that McMahon had lied on a questionnaire when running for the state education board, claiming, among other things, that her college degree was in education. It was in French. She’s also allegedly tipped off a doctor about a steroid investigation and has taken heat for the sexual and violent content of the WWE itself.

“Character is now an unavoidable issue in this race,” wrote campaign manager Jim Barnett in a press release today. “Republicans should not believe for one second that extreme wealth will overcome the fundamental character defects that plague Linda McMahon.”

And the Simmons campaign would like nothing more than to make this race about character.

“She’s a flawed messenger to level this character debate against Richard Blumenthal,” Shah said. “Rob Simmons has the one thing money can’t buy: Character.”