Simmons Starting to Act Like a Candidate Again

Posted July 27, 2010 at 4:47pm

Former Rep. Rob Simmons is behaving more like a candidate who wants to win Connecticut’s Republican Senate primary.

Having essentially operated with no staff since “scaling back” his campaign after losing the state party endorsement two months ago, Simmons has resumed more traditional campaign activities in recent days. He will participate in a debate Tuesday night and another one Thursday night, and is conducting regular media interviews.

Asked by Roll Call on Tuesday whether he wanted to win the contest, he answered: “Of course. Everybody wants to win.”

But while he wants to win, the three-term Congressman refused to say whether he is a full-blown candidate: “I’m on the ballot,” he said, borrowing a phrase from an unusual television advertisement he aired last week that he referred to as a “public service announcement.”

“In the Republican primary on Aug. 10, you do have a choice,” he says in the ad, flanked by an American flag. “I’m Rob Simmons, I’m still on the ballot, and I approve this message.”

It was “a modest buy” that cost roughly $200,000, Simmons said Tuesday. There probably will be another television buy in the coming days, he added, although details have not been finalized. Simmons still had $885,000 in his campaign account at the end of June.

“I was very clear, I thought, back on May 25 when I curtailed my campaign that I would not engage in a divisive and expensive primary,” he said. “That’s what I said, and that’s exactly what I’ve done.”

Asked whether he is now actively campaigning for the seat, Simmons said, “I am engaging in a discussion of the issues.”

Simmons’ uncertain status drew fire from the leading Republican, Linda McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment who won the party’s endorsement earlier this year.

“What day of the week is it? He was apparently a candidate on Sunday; I don’t know where he is today,” McMahon spokesman Ed Patru said. “I think Republicans in this state know a spoiler when they see one. Clearly, they’re backing Linda.”

Simmons cited recent polling, however, suggesting that he would fare as well as McMahon against the presumed Democratic nominee, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal — even though McMahon had spent almost $19 million, mostly from her own pocket, on her campaign through June.

Rasmussen Reports released survey results a week ago giving Blumenthal a 53 to 40 percent edge over McMahon; Blumenthal led Simmons 52 to 38 percent.

McMahon has already turned her attention to Blumenthal. She will not attend either debate this week with Simmons and the other Republican candidate, businessman Peter Schiff.

“That’s too bad,” Simmons said of McMahon’s expected absence from Tuesday’s debate hosted by the Federation of Connecticut Taxpayer Organizations. “If you can’t handle a debate on taxes, how are you going to handle the U.S. Senate?”