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Cornyn Says Blumenthal Story ‘Game Changer’ in Connecticut Race

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Richard Blumenthal
Richard Blumenthal admits he misspoke about serving in the military. Photographer: Carol T. Powers/Bloomberg

May 22 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Senator John Cornyn, who heads the committee to elect Republicans to the chamber, said the report that Democrat Richard Blumenthal misstated his military record is a “game changer” in the Connecticut Senate race.

“Character, credibility, personal integrity is very important, and he has hurt himself badly,” Cornyn said of Blumenthal, a Democrat and the state attorney general, in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend.

Blumenthal had been heavily favored by political analysts to win the seat of retiring Senator Christopher Dodd, a Democrat. Cornyn said the contest now “is in play” for Republicans.

Cornyn, 58, 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 Senate races Republicans might win in November. He said, though, his party is “feeling hopeful.”

“Single-party power probably is not a good idea for the country as a whole,” he said, referring to Democratic control of the White House, the Senate and the House.

Mood of Voters

With nationwide unemployment at 9.9 percent, Republicans are counting on voter discontent to enable them to reduce Democratic Senate and House majorities -- or take control of one or both chambers -- in November’s congressional races.

In the Senate, Democrats outnumber Republicans 57-41; two senators are independents who caucus with the Democrats. In the House, the party breakdown is 255 Democrats and 176 Republicans, with four seats vacant.

Republicans had little hope of winning the Connecticut seat until the New York Times report this week on Blumenthal’s past comments on his military background.

The Times reported that Blumenthal, 64, claimed during some 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.

Republican Contenders

He led Republicans Linda McMahon, former chief executive officer of Stamford, Connecticut-based World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., and Rob Simmons, a former U.S. House member, by more than 30 percentage 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 that 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 new turn in the race.

“Rob is fantastic and Linda McMahon is a very accomplished businesswoman, but a novice candidate,” he said.

Paul’s Comment

In the Kentucky race, Paul, an ophthalmologist and son of U.S. Representative and 2008 presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas, said in a recent 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 on May 20 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.

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 showed he would lose to Marco Rubio, a Tea Party movement favorite and a former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. Senator Robert Bennett of Utah lost his re-election bid at a state 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.”

Financial Overhaul

On financial regulation, Cornyn said legislation revamping the rules governing Wall Street that the Senate passed May 20 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 of policy by the U.S. government, and that 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 Arizona 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.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Catherine Dodge in Washington at cdodge1@bloomberg.net. Kristin Jensen in Washington at kjensen@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Tackett in Washington at mtackett@bloomberg.net

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