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Posted 10/29/12

Crunch Time


Murphy’s All-Weather Friends
Senators Blumenthal,
Landrieu & Shaheen

Photo by Steve Kotchko

The clock is ticking on campaign season as Election Day, Nov. 6, approaches.  Last week there were signs the pressure is taking its toll during this political crunch time in Connecticut.

A new Quinnipiac University Poll was released, and since the Q-Poll is the most established public opinion survey in Connecticut, its findings are viewed carefully in the media and the public, not to mention the political realm.

The Poll showed Congressman Chris Murphy, now the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, with a 6 point lead in the closing days of the campaign over his Republican rival Linda McMahon.  Previous Q-Polls had shown the contest as a dead heat.

The Poll’s news release carried the headline “McMahon Fades In Connecticut Senate Race.”  Poll Director Douglas Schwartz said it wasn’t just the 6 point lead Murphy enjoyed in the poll, but other corroborating data that indicates the GOP candidate may have “peaked”.

“One of McMahon’s strengths had been that voters liked her more than Murphy,” Schwartz explained, and in the new poll “voters are evenly divided on Murphy (in likeability), but have a negative opinion of McMahon.”  Schwartz added:  “After improving her image (from her 2010 Senate campaign), her favorability rating has fallen back.”

Murphy campaign spokesman Ben Marter reacted to the poll by saying his candidate “has continued to strengthen his lead by focusing on the issues that matter to Connecticut’s middle class.”  The McMahon campaign reacted by attacking the Quinnipiac Poll itself.

McMahon campaign manager Corry Bliss called the poll “misleading” charging that it under sampled Republican voters, but he went further asking:  “Did Quinnipiac intentionally under sample Republicans to help Congressman Murphy?  Only Quinnipiac knows for sure.”

In response, Schwartz defended the Poll’s methodology adding:  “We stand by our record for accuracy.”

Separate from the polls, the McMahon and Murphy campaigns, as expected, brought in some political “celebrities” to boost their efforts.  New Jersey’s outspoken and well-known Republican Gov. Chris Christie stumped for McMahon in Stamford, Waterbury, and Glastonbury, while the Murphy camp brought in three Democratic women U.S. Senators to tout Murphy’s voting record on women’s issues.

Christie told the Glastonbury audience that Murphy is a party line Democrat who follows the directives of U.S. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.  “Chris Murphy is Nancy Pelosi’s butler,” Christie intoned, imagining Murphy as saying: ‘Miss Pelosi, how should I vote today.  Miss Pelosi, can I get you a cup of tea, or help you with your coat,’” Christie joked as the crowd howled in laughter.

Taking the stage on behalf of Murphy at an outdoor Hartford rally, three Democratic U.S. Senators Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, and Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski attacked McMahon’s contention that she is a “pro-choice” candidate and stating that Murphy is the only nominee with a reliable record of voting for women’s rights

“Linda (McMahon) proves the point that just because you wear lipstick and high heels doesn’t necessarily make you a women’s rights advocate,” said the feisty Mikulski, who went on to criticize McMahon’s refusal to publicly offer detailed stands on important issues.  Said Mikulski:  “In the Senate, success depends on who you stand up and speak for.  You can’t have somebody who says ‘no comment’.  If you have no comment, you have business being in the Senate!”

Elsewhere on the campaign trail, State Senate Democrats freaked out at week’s end when they learned that Greenwich billionaire Thomas Peterffy, who made his money with his firm Interactive Brokers, is funneling money to oppose State Sen. Steve Cassano (D-Manchester), and maybe more Democratic legislators.

Peterffy has been running political ads on CNN and other networks warning against creeping socialism, explaining his personal rags-to-riches immigrant story, and urging voters to elect Republicans.

“I’m being attacked through this process by somebody who lives in Greenwich that I’ve never met in my life,” said a stunned Cassano.  “What impact he has on Manchester and Glastonbury (Cassano’s 4th District) I have no idea,” he said.

Cassano and his Senate Democratic leader Donald Williams agreed there is nothing illegal in Peterffy’s contributions that are legit because of U.S Supreme Court rulings equating political spending to free speech.  However they do view the outside money as tainted.

“It’s going to be a dollars-controlled thing,” Cassano said about  campaigns.  “Is America for sale, is American politics for sale?,” he asked.  “It sure as heck is immoral,” he claimed.

Acknowledging it is odd that a Republican-oriented billionaire looking to influence elections with hefty contributions would focus on one state senator, Williams expects more of the same.  “I doubt very seriously that’s going to be the only expenditure (of this type) that we see,” said Williams.  “We expect more of this special interest billionaire political action money to come into Connecticut (legislative) races.”

Liz Kurantowicz, who formerly worked for GOP Gov. Jodi Rell, and for the state Republican Party, is managing director of “Voters for Good Government” the group taking in Peterffy’s contributions.  She confirmed that more money could be on the way.  “Sen. Cassano will not be the only race that we are interested in,” Kurantowicz told the Hartford Courant.  “There certainly will be additional expenditures made in multiple districts,” she said.

Follow Steve Kotchko on Twitter for news and insider tidbits on politics and government@CRN_News