Take this as a poll with a sample size of one. If I were a voter in Connecticut, I’d find it very difficult to pull the lever for Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, whom it was revealed today (by the New York Times’ Raymond Hernandez) appears to have misled the public, as recently as 2008, about having served in Vietnam.
Many politicians have lost their jobs for less. One can understand the human instinct to lie about an affair, or about some long-ago indiscretion like drug use. They’re essentially personal matters that arguably deserve no place in the political discourse to begin with. But military service is the very opposite: a public act, involving a gift of sacrifice for the common good.
Even if you aren’t offended by Blumenthal’s actions, this is an extremely strange thing to lie about. It’s a lie that any enterprising reporter with a Freedom of Information Request could have uncovered, as Hernandez eventually did (why it took the rest of media so long is a good question). As with John Edwards’ affair, it is a lie that displays a stunning disregard for the trust that Democrats were about to place in Blumenthal by making him their nominee. It is a lie that may even call into question the mental state of the candidate, as it carries no obvious tactical benefit. Moreover, it may be part of a pattern: the Times also reports “on a less serious matter” that Blumenthal may have also misled reporters about being the captain of Harvard’s swim team (in fact, he wasn’t on the team at all.)
Perhaps there’s more to the story, but Blumenthal’s team hasn’t really denied the story so much as tried to spin it (and they certainly haven’t tried to apologize). And the non-sequitur, blame-shifting response from the DSCC (“Its no surprise Republicans would want to smear Dick Blumenthal, considering all of the debauchery at [WWE] under Linda McMahon’s watch”) points to just how difficult it might be to dig out from.
And perhaps my gut reaction is atypical. But to Americans a generation removed from me — the baby-boomers who were most directly impacted by Vietnam and who vote most reliably in midterm elections — the question of Blumenthal’s service is liable to be more resonant rather than less.
My suspicion, therefore, is that the political implications of this will be very difficult for Blumenthal — particularly since he is an Attorney General, a position which is supposed to connote trustworthiness, precision, and law-abidance.
Democrats have little incentive not to nominate a new candidate, as the filing deadline has yet to pass in Connecticut and as their bench in the state is deep. All five of Connecticut’s U.S. House seats are filled by Democrats, including CT-3′s Rosa DeLauro and CT-5′s Chris Murphy, who have been mentioned as viable Senate candidates in the past. The Democrats could conceivably also poach Ned Lamont, or Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy, from the governor’s race.
I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to say that Blumenthal can’t win — particularly against McMahon, who is probably the less electable of the two Republicans (but who may nevertheless be their nominee). As of 24 hours ago, he ha a very large lead in the polls, and could conceivably still be the favorite even now. But it seems likely that a Murphy or DeLauro would be a safer bet. (A PPP poll in January put Murphy 7 points ahead of the two most likely Republican nominees). Nor am I certain that it’s worth the Democrats waiting out the polling to find out, while the story simmers nationally and potentially damages their brand in other races.