After losing the Connecticut GOP endorsement at the state convention on Friday to Linda McMahon, most people presumed that former Congressman Rob Simmons would fight on to the primary. Peter Schiff had already pledged primary fight, and Simmons hinted to me on Thursday that the convention wouldn’t settle anything. Now, however, the Connecticut Mirror reports that Simmons has told his staff that he will withdraw from the race:
A Republican source says Rob Simmons told his staff Monday he will end his campaign for U.S. Senate at a press conference today in New London.
On Monday night, Simmons called a press conference for 9 a.m. in New London to make an “announcement on the future of the campaign for U.S. Senate,” immediately prompting speculation he was dropping out. …
But a source who declined to be identified said that Simmons staff was told the campaign was ending, bowing to the difficulties of fighting the best-financed candidate in Connecticut history: McMahon, a co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment who is seeking office for the first time.
McMahon, who had contributed $16 million to her campaign by May 1, is on pace to break all campaign spending records in the state by the Fourth of July. She says she has budgeted $50 million of her personal fortune in an effort to become the first Connecticut Republican to win a Senate race since Lowell P. Weicker Jr. in 1982.
Simmons, a former three-term congressman and decorated Vietnam veteran, hoped that delegates to the Republican State Convention last weekend would judge him the best opponent to face Democrat Richard Blumenthal, who has been on the defensive for the past week over his misrepresentation of his military record.
We’ll know more later this morning. It may be that Simmons saw too much of an uphill battle in fighting a candidate with a bottomless checkbook and the party endorsement going into the primary. According to the Mirror, Simmons had an opportunity to switch candidacies a few weeks ago in order to avoid that confrontation, with Republicans urging him to seek his old seat in the House instead of fighting for the Senate seat. Simmons thought that his military experience would trump McMahon’s self-funding and outsider status, especially after Richard Blumenthal’s exposure as a military-service fabulist.
If Simmons drops out, Schiff is out of luck. He didn’t win enough votes at the convention to force a primary, where it takes 15% of the ballots to allow for a primary fight. He could file petitions to attempt to qualify for a primary, but he only has a couple of weeks to do so — and Schiff will have even less standing than Simmons in a primary fight, thanks to his poor convention showing, and he’d face the same self-funding buzz saw. Schiff has been a favorite of fiscal-conservative activists around the country, but it hasn’t translated to support in Connecticut. Schiff needed Simmons to demand a primary in order to guarantee one.
By the end of the day, Linda McMahon probably will have the nomination, if the Mirror has reliable sourcing on this story.