Senator John Cornyn, head of the committee to elect Republicans to the chamber, said the report that Democrat Richard Blumenthal misstated his military service is a “game changer” for the Connecticut Senate race.
“Character, credibility, personal integrity is very important, and he has hurt himself badly,” Cornyn said of Blumenthal, the state attorney general, in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend; he said the seat now “is in play” for the Republicans.
Cornyn also said he expects Kentucky Republican Rand Paul to improve as a candidate and overcome mistakes such as questioning parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “Rand Paul, like every new candidate, is going to get better,” Cornyn said. Candidates “make mistakes and they misspeak.”
Cornyn, a Texas Republican, wouldn’t predict how many races Republicans might win in November and said his party is “feeling hopeful.”
“We will have some real checks and balances here in Washington,” he said. “Single-party power probably is not a good idea for the country as a whole.”
With nationwide unemployment at 9.9 percent, Republicans are counting on voter discontent to enable them to reduce Democratic Senate and House majorities -- or even take control of one or both chambers -- in November’s congressional races.
Changing the Odds
Republicans had little hope of winning the Connecticut seat being left vacant by retiring Democrat Christopher Dodd until the New York Times report this week on Blumenthal.
The Times reported that Blumenthal, 64, claimed during public appearances to have served in Vietnam. The paper, citing records, said Blumenthal got at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and took steps to avoid going to war. Instead, he joined a Marine Reserve unit based in the U.S.
Blumenthal, who later said he unintentionally misspoke on a few occasions, was favored to win the November election by the three Washington-based publications that rate congressional contests: Congressional Quarterly, the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Political Report.
He led Republicans Linda McMahon, former chief executive officer of Stamford, Connecticut-based World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., and Rob Simmons, a former U.S. Representative, by more than 30 points each in a March poll by Quinnipiac University of Hamden, Connecticut.
Cornyn said polling after the story was published suggests Blumenthal’s support has “collapsed considerably.”
He declined to pick a favorite in the Republican primary, saying it was up to Connecticut voters. And he wouldn’t say whether Simmons, a military veteran, was better positioned than McMahon to take advantage of the situation.
“Rob is fantastic and Linda McMahon is a very accomplished businesswoman, but a novice candidate,” he said.
In the Kentucky race, Paul, an ophthalmologist and son of U.S. Representative and 2008 presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas, said in an interview on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” that he agrees with almost all of the Civil Rights Act, though he would have tried to change the parts that compel private institutions to act in a certain way.
Democrats immediately seized on the comments, and Paul was forced yesterday to issue a statement that said he would “not support any efforts to repeal the Civil Rights Act.”
Paul, part of the anti-Washington Tea Party movement, beat Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson in that state’s U.S. Senate primary race on May 18, overcoming the endorsement of Grayson by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Wave of Opposition
Candidates backed by Republican Party leaders have encountered a wellspring of opposition in this election season.
Cornyn’s chosen candidate for the Florida Senate seat, Governor Charlie Crist, decided to leave the party and run as an independent as polls suggested he would lose to Marco Rubio, a Tea Party movement favorite and a former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. Utah Senator Robert Bennett lost his bid for re-election at a Republican convention on May 8.
“The mood of the country is such that folks around the country don’t necessarily want people in Washington to tell them who they should vote for,” said Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “They are going to make their own decisions.”
On financial regulation, Cornyn said legislation revamping the rules governing Wall Street that the Senate passed last night will “contract credit” and should have addressed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
“Most people are going to conclude in the end that this was just a massive government intervention that really isn’t directed at the root causes of the crisis and institutionalizes it,” he said.
On immigration, Cornyn said he supports a comprehensive overhaul by the U.S. government, and Arizona’s new anti- immigration law “is an understandable action on the part of the state when the federal government has not done its job.”
The law, favored by state Republicans, would require local police to determine the immigration status of anyone an officer suspects of lacking proper documentation.
He said the law “expressly prohibits racial profiling.”