Even with a strong GOP U.S. Senate challenger, a win by the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee at the top of the ticket should seal the deal for a second Blumenthal term
Reports continue to percolate that economist and media host Larry Kudlow is poised to launch a GOP challenge against first-term Connecticut U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal should he vote as expected for President Barack Obama’s controversial Iran deal.
Blumenthal, who kept the Nutmeg State’s Class III U.S. Senate seat in the Democratic column for a ninth consecutive cycle since 1962 with an 11.9-point win over Linda McMahon in 2010, has already seen one Republican challenger enter the race – financial adviser and former Olympian August Wolf.
Kudlow has repeatedly made declarations of a contingent candidacy in recent weeks as increased focus is paid to how many and which Democrats will back the Iran deal made by their party’s standard-bearer.
Blumenthal has a long history in elected office in Connecticut, having previously served three terms in the state house in the 1980s and a record five terms as the state’s Attorney General from 1991 to 2011.
But if one vote could launch an opposing candidacy, could it also sink the senior senator from Connecticut? Not likely.
For starters, the odds are quite good that the top of the ticket vote for president will be a much more reliable tell to determine whether or not Blumenthal returns to the chamber in 2017.
In the direct election era, Connecticut voters have aligned their vote for U.S. Senate with the party of their choice for president in 16 out of 19 contests, or 84 percent of the time – one of the Top 10 highest rates in the nation (Wyoming, Kansas, Utah, and North Carolina top the list at 90+ percent).
That bodes well for Blumenthal, as Connecticut has cast its Electoral College votes for the Democratic presidential nominee in six consecutive cycles – the longest such streak for the party in state history.
Even better news for Blumenthal, when Democratic presidential nominees have carried Connecticut, the party’s U.S. Senate nominees are a perfect 8-0 with victories in 1940 (Francis Maloney), 1944 (Brien McMahon), 1964 (Thomas Dodd), 1968 (Abraham Ribicoff), 1992 (Chris Dodd), 2000 (Joe Lieberman), 2004 (Chris Dodd), and 2012 (Chris Murphy).
The only three instances in which voters split their presidential and U.S. Senate ballots came at the expense of GOP U.S. Senate candidates:
- 1932: Democratic Congressman Augustine Lonergan nipped two-term incumbent Hiram Bingham by 0.7 points while Herbert Hoover beat Franklin Roosevelt by 1.1 points
- 1980: Democratic Congressman Chris Dodd defeated former New York U.S. Senator James Buckley in an open seat race as Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter in the state by 9.6 points
- 1988: Democrat state Attorney General Joe Lieberman ousted three-term U.S. Senator Lowell Weicker while George H.W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis by 5.1 points.
However, as might be expected, Connecticut electoral history has shown that first-term U.S. Senators are a bit more vulnerable on the margins than members of the chamber with more experience.
Since the state’s first direct election in 1914, a total of 11 of 16 first-term U.S. Senators from Connecticut won reelection, or 68 percent.
Meanwhile, members in their second term or longer who sought reelection were victorious in 10 out of 13 campaigns, or 77 percent.
Each of the last five first-termers from the Nutmeg State was victorious in their quest for a second term: Thomas Dodd (1964), Ribicoff (1968), Weicker (1976), Chris Dodd (1986), and Lieberman (1994).
First-term U.S. Senators who were not so fortunate were:
- 1934: Republican Frederic Walcott (losing to Democrat Francis Maloney)
- 1938: Democrat Augustine Lonergan (losing to Republican John Danaher)
- 1944: Republican John Danaher (losing to Democrat Brien McMahon)
- 1952: Democrat William Benton (losing to Republican William Purtell)
- 1958: Republican William Purtell (losing to Democrat Thomas Dodd)
As of now, with Kudlow not officially in the race, all prognosticators view Connecticut’s U.S. Senate race as solidly Democratic.
Through the second quarter of 2015 Blumenthal had over $2.5 million cash on hand while the lone GOP filer to date, August Wolf, had just shy of $200,000.
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