Republican Rob Simmons suspended his campaign to represent Connecticut in the Senate today, leaving the GOP nomination for former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon -- and ensuring that Democratic candidate Richard Blumenthal will not have to run against a Vietnam veteran.
"This is not an easy decision," Simmons said this morning at a press conference, the Hartford Courant reports. "This is not a happy decision. But I believe it's the right decision."
McMahon won the Connecticut Republican Party's endorsement last week, though Simmons won 46 percent of the convention vote, the Courant reports. While he is releasing his campaign staff and cutting off fundraising efforts, Simmons' name will remain on the primary ballot. Simmons said this morning he understood the "mathematical reality of competing against an opponent with unlimited financial resources," noting that McMahon has already spent $16.5 million on her campaign.
Simmons' decision shifts the focus to an upcoming general election battle between McMahon and Blumenthal, the Connecticut attorney general, for the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd. Blumenthal was considered a shoo-in for the seat until the New York Times reported that hehe served on the battlefield during the Vietnam War. Blumenthal did, in fact, serve six years in the Marine Corps Reserve, but he received at least five deferments to keep him out of Vietnam.
After the revelation about Blumenthal's statements, the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan newsletter, labeled the race a toss up. Blumenthal for his misstatements on Sunday.
Campaigning against Simmons could have posed more of a challenge for Blumenthal, since Simmons is a genuine, decorated Vietnam veteran. Now, however, the Democratic party is seizing on McMahon's career history.
"We now likely have a race in Connecticut between a crusading attorney general with a long record of delivering for Connecticut families and a wrestling mogul who made her millions peddling violence to kids, hiding widespread steroid abuse, and sending her employees into dangerous situations in exchange for their glory and her profit," Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee communications director Eric Schultz said in a statement after Simmons announced his withdrawal from the race.