If Democrats wanted to push Richard Blumenthal off of the ticket for the US Senate in Connecticut, they had an opportunity last night. Instead, they initially blocked competing candidate Merrick Alpert from speaking, and his subsequent withdrawal led to an endorsement by acclamation for the Attorney General who got exposed as a fabulist about his service during the Vietnam War era. Blumenthal still didn’t apologize after taking the stage to Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down”:
With several references to his problems of the past week, Richard Blumenthal accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate on Friday night by saying that he might be outspent but will never be outworked or intimidated in this fall’s election.
Blumenthal’s campaign is still reeling from the controversy caused by his videotaped speech in Norwalk in 2008 in which he said he had served in Vietnam – when he actually served stateside during the war in the United States Marine Corps Reserve.
“I have made mistakes,” Blumenthal told the crowd at the state Democratic Party nominating convention in Hartford. “I regret them. And I have taken responsibility. But this campaign must be about the people of Connecticut.”
Has he? In his strange press conference at the VFW on Tuesday — an organization for which Blumenthal doesn’t qualify for membership — Blumenthal passed off his claims as poor choices of words. He characterized the criticism as an attack on his otherwise honorable service as a way of claiming victimization from his own actions. Far from taking responsibility, Blumenthal conducted a blame-throwing exercise that was so breathtaking in its cynicism that even the media and a strategist from his own party couldn’t swallow it.
Blumenthal’s cynicism was matched by that of his party’s leadership. Apparently afraid that Merrick Alpert might say something to win the endorsement, they blocked him from speaking at all:
On the night that Democrats intended to coronate Blumenthal as their nominee for U.S. Senator, his opponent, Merrick Alpert, was initially prevented from speaking at the party convention. But after votes had been cast for Blumenthal by many delegations, Alpert suddenly appeared at the podium.
“I would like to formally withdraw my name from nomination,” Alpert said shortly before 8 p.m. That line generated enthusiastic applause from the crowd. “We’re going to have an early dinner. Good night.” …
Alpert released a copy of the speech that he intended to deliver – as he struggled to try to reach the minimum of 15 percent of the delegates that are necessary to force a primary.
“You deserve a primary. We need a primary,” Alpert said in his prepared remarks.
Known for his outspokenness, Alpert had prepared to tell the delegates that he believes the recent controversies of the past week would cause the Democrats to lose the U.S. Senate election in November. He included remarks that many of the delegates clearly would not want to hear on their party’s big night.
“We’re not ready to win the Senate election,” Alpert said in his remarks. “My assessment is if the general election were held this Tuesday, we would lose. After the events of this week, the polls confirm my assessment.”
So far, the polls have been at least tight, and Blumenthal’s rapid descent over the past week may make Alpert a genius in retrospect. Blumenthal might survive, but once a candidate looks dishonest, it’s hard to bounce back. Alpert tried to give Democrats some breathing space to recover if Blumenthal implodes, and they may well live to regret having gagged him instead of taking his advice.