Reporting Al Jones
MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (AP/1010 WINS) — Democrat Richard Blumenthal and Republican Linda McMahon traveled across the state on Monday to meet with committed supporters in their U.S. Senate race while trying to drum up new ones before Tuesday’s election.
Both candidates said they felt momentum building for their respective campaigns as a new Quinnipiac University poll gave Blumenthal a nine percentage point lead.
Meanwhile, McMahon’s husband, Vince McMahon, the CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, announced the WWE had reluctantly agreed to stop plans to give away merchandise to voters near the polls after receiving a warning from the U.S. Department of Justice.
In a letter dated Monday, the director of the agency’s election crimes branch, Richard C. Pilger, warned WWE officials that the wrestling company “might be operating in ignorance” of federal law against offering someone something of value in return for voting.
Vince McMahon called the warning “heavy-handed bullying” by the government and said it was consistent with tactics used by Blumenthal, the state’s attorney general, “that threaten litigation for political gain.”
McMahon announced last week he would give away WWE merchandise near selected polling places after a federal judge informed the secretary of the state that fans could wear their gear to the polls even though Linda McMahon was a CEO of the company.
Blumenthal’s campaign stressed it had nothing to do with the Department of Justice action and had made clear it thought people should be able to wear their WWE clothing to the polls.
On Monday, Blumenthal stood outside the gates of aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney’s Middletown plant at shift change and waved to passing cars. Many drivers honked in support as they drove past Blumenthal and a group of union workers.
“I have stood strong for jobs at Pratt & Whitney and fought for the people who work here, working families who deserve and need these jobs,” Blumenthal said. “I think that they are committed to see me as their next U.S. senator.”
Dave Durbin Sr., president of the machinists Local 700, which represents 1,325 workers at Pratt, said the union believes Blumenthal will watch out for them in Washington, especially as the jet engine company seeks government contracts.
“Wherever Dick is, he’ll help us,” Durbin said.
Blumenthal argued before a federal appeals court in June that the company failed to make every reasonable effort to keep jobs in the state as required by a union contract.
Meanwhile, Linda McMahon on Monday made eleventh-hour visits in eastern Connecticut, meeting with her campaign workers and making a stop at the University of Connecticut that led to mixed results.
“What I’m really seeing are women and undecided voters coming our way. I feel great momentum,” said McMahon, adding how her internal polling shows her neck-and-neck with Blumenthal in the race to replace Democratic U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, who’s retiring.
About 30 student supporters turned out for an event that was billed as a rally by the student Republican organization. It became a handshaking session that was interrupted by several students from an anti-domestic violence group that criticized McMahon’s involvement with the WWE.
McMahon stepped down last fall as CEO of the company, which has been a target for her opponents because of the programming.
McMahon’s campaign staff escorted the candidate to her SUV after a skirmish broke out between a male member of the anti-domestic violence group and a female student supporter of McMahon’s. Campus police were called, but no one was arrested, McMahon’s campaign said.
UConn junior Brenna Regan tried unsuccessfully to hand McMahon a mock lifetime achievement award for promoting domestic violence. Regan, a 20-year-old from Redding, said she was disgusted by the WWE videos she has seen that she believes promote violence against women.
“I wish that she had taken this and accepted recognition for what she’s done,” Regan said.
Joe Wambolt, a 20-year-old pharmacy student from Ellington, was among those who turned out to support McMahon. He said he likes McMahon’s fiscal conservativeness.
“I tend to think that we’re spending a lot, far too much, and kind of worry for the future, how that’s going to reflect on taxation,” he said. “I tend to vote fiscally a lot of times even though I’m not entirely Republican.”
While the two major-party candidates were busy on the campaign trail, their workers were busy behind the scenes, trying to boost turnout at the polls.
McMahon said volunteers have knocked on more than 100,000 doors and made hundreds of thousands of telephone calls urging people to vote on Tuesday. Blumenthal said he also has a strong get-out-the-vote effort under way.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)