Menendez: Democrats Will Continue to Support Blumenthal

Posted May 18, 2010 at 10:49am

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) on Tuesday indicated that Democrats are planning to stand by their man in Connecticut.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the favorite to receive the Democratic Senate nomination, faces accusations published in the New York Times on Monday evening that he misled the public on his military service, indicating in several speeches that he served in Vietnam when in fact he served in the Marine Reserves stateside in the 1970s.

But Menendez said Blumenthal’s record of supporting veterans and the support of veterans at an expected press conference Tuesday in Connecticut will help the candidate weather the storm created by the Times story. Blumenthal is running to succeed retiring Sen. Chris Dodd (D), who decided against running for another term against significant headwind.

“I think that, first of all, Attorney General Blumenthal has been an incredible advocate for veterans,” Menendez told reporters. “I believe he’s having an event today where veterans are standing with him and saying, you know, ‘Dick Blumenthal has stood by our side.'”

Menendez continued: “He’s corrected the record in the past, and I think, you know, his actions as it relates to standing up for veterans over a long period of time speaks volumes [about] both where his heart and his actions are. And so I’m sure those veterans who will be standing up for him today will make the case for him, and I’m sure he will continue to stay in the Senate race, and we will continue to support him.”

Asked whether the revelations about Blumenthal made the race less of a lock for Democrats, Menendez said the Republican candidate has yet to be chosen, but that whomever emerges from the primary will have a tough time measuring up to Blumethal’s record.

“The reality is that we have not gotten to a full vetting of, you know, the Republican candidate,” Menendez said. “There’s plenty to talk about in that respect. I think [Blumenthal’s] record of standing up for Connecticut citizens, standing up for them as a consumer advocate, standing up for the veterans in that state, standing up against big companies that have tried to rip off the citizens of Connecticut … when the other side of the equation is viewed, I think voters will have a clear choice.”

But National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) said of the revelation: “If this proves to be true … [it] will be a negative factor in the race and I think hurt his chances.”

Cornyn added, “I think it’s definitely going to make that race more competitive.”

The Times reported that records show Blumenthal received at least five military deferments and repeatedly attempted to avoid serving in Vietnam while he attended college, graduate school and even after he began working. The most damning part of the story, however, is Blumental’s penchant for speaking in misleading ways about his military service.

“We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” Blumenthal said during a ceremony in March 2008 honoring veterans and seniors who sent presents to soldiers overseas, according to the Times. “And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it — Afghanistan or Iraq — we owe our military men and women unconditional support.”

The candidate filing deadline for the Aug. 10 primary is May 25, so Democrats could attempt to tap another candidate to replace Blumenthal if he appears too damaged to win the general election.