Saturday, December 26, 2015

Blumenthal And The Loyal Opposition

When he last ran for the U.S. Senate, Dick Blumenthal, fresh from a two decade stint as Connecticut’s Attorney General, was facing a deep pockets opponent in World Wrestling Entertainment’s former CEO Linda McMahon. It was generally supposed by the fortune tellers in the media that Mr. Blumenthal would easily defeat Mrs. McMahon without breaking sweat – and so he did. Mr. Blumenthal’s current re-election bid features a reversal of fortune, pun intended.

Mr. Blumenthal is himself a multi-millionaire, the eighth richest member of Congress, according to a list of multi-millionaires compiled by Roll Call. Of the top ten richest members of Congress, only three are Republicans.

Mr. Blumenthal’s net worth, an embarrassment of riches at $52.39 million, comes to him through a fortunate, pun intended, marriage; his wife is the daughter of a New York real estate mogul, the owner of the Empire State building, among other glittering properties. The source of Mr. Blumenthal’s political resources, however, arises from other springs. Even before the start pistol on his re-election race has sounded, Mr. Blumenthal will enjoy insuperable advantages over his Republican Party opponent.

Just to begin with, Mr. Blumenthal is the incumbent in Connecticut’s upcoming Senate race, and deep pockets campaign contributors cautiously bet their dollars on probable outcomes. All the present members of Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional Delegation are progressive Democrats, the last moderate Republican member of the Delegation, Representative Chris Shays having lost his bid for re-election in 2008. The last Republican U.S. Senator was liberal gasbag Lowell Weicker, the father of Connecticut’s income tax,  whose Americans for Democratic Action liberal rating in Congress was 20 points higher than that of U.S. Senator Chris Dodd.

So far, the only Republican who has announced a bid for Mr. Blumenthal’s seat is August Wolf, an investment advisor for a national asset management company. As of July 2015, Mr. Wolf had $240,000 in his campaign kitty, while Mr. Blumenthal had managed to acquire $3.3 million.

Mr.  Blumenthal is a Democrat in a failing state in which Democrats outnumber Republicans roughly by a margin of two to one. Many Connecticut editorial boards, some of which still endorse candidates for office, are reflexively – and occasionally fecklessly, as witness the Hartford Courant’s endorsement of Elizabeth Esty over Andrew Roraback -- progressive or pro-incumbent. Like one-percenters hoping to purchase the golden ears of electable politicians, they tend to cast their lots in favor of probable winners; it’s good for business.

During his first campaign for the Senate, Mr. Blumenthal agilely slipped at least one noose. In several different venues, Mr. Blumenthal had said or strongly implied that he had served as a marine in the Vietnam War. In truth, Mr. Blumenthal, having exhausted his draft deferments, found a quiet corner far from whizzing bullets in Washington D.C., where he spent the war years distributing Toys for Tots as a part of his military duties.

Somewhat like prospective Democratic Party candidate for President Hillary Clinton – whose candidacy Mr. Blumenthal and other big wig Democrats in the state have fulsomely endorsed – Mr. Blumenthal, Connecticut’s first consumer protection Senator, is Teflon coated. Mrs. Clinton’s several Achilles heels so far have not impeded her steadfast march to the White House.

The fortunes of Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional Delegation are to some extent tied to presidential races. While Mrs. Clinton almost certainly will be the Democratic Party nominee for President, her success will depend upon fickle fate and the persistence of bad habits. All predictions at this point are pointless, but Mrs. Clinton is more than usually pock-marked with misfortune, much of it of her own making. Democrats appear poised to replicate Mr. Obama’s two Presidential victories. During his two terms in office, Mr. Obama was able to cobble together what can only be described as an eccentric majority. Mr. Obama since has lost voltage and popularity -- the result of reality piercing his hardening presidential bubble – and it will be recalled that Mrs. Clinton, as Secretary of State, was closely allied with his more spectacular foreign policy failures. Libya is an Obama-Clinton replication of George Bush’s “failed” policy in Iraq, and the blood of those slain in Benghazi, including American Ambassador Christopher Stevens, still cries out for justice.

To wrest a Congressional seat from an incumbent, an opposing party must command the three “M’s” – Money, Means and Message. In Connecticut politics, opposition money is hard to come-by; the left-leaning media is unsympathetic to Republican moderates and aggressively hostile to Republican social conservatives; and the Republican message is generally muted by irreconcilable factions within the party.

Then too, fickle fate is too fickle to be a dependable political ally.         
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