By one key measure, Rob Simmons has returned as an active, if unconventional, candidate for U.S. Senate, announcing he will resume advertising on television in coming days.
But, of course, there is a twist to the new ad: Simmons reminds voters he is on the ballot for the Aug. 10 Republican primary, yet he never asks them for their vote.
“It’s an unusual year,” Simmons, who ceased his active campaign after losing the GOP’s convention endorsement to Linda McMahon, said in an interview. “We should expect unusual things.”
Think of Simmons, who served tours in Vietnam with the U.S. Army and CIA, as fighting a guerrilla war, harassing a stronger, conventional opponent without directly engaging her.
The former three-term congressman ended his active campaign on May 25 with another military analogy, comparing a run against McMahon’s self-financed, $50 million budget to the futility of Pickett’s Charge during the Civil War.
There will be no frontal assaults for Simmons, nor will he withdraw from the war.
Simmons, who recently reported having nearly $900,000 in his campaign account, is spending $350,000 to air the commercial, a significant buy for Connecticut television. It will air in the Hartford-New Haven market, plus on cable in the New York suburbs of lower Fairfield County.
“Everywhere I go, people ask, ‘What is your status?’ My answer is, ‘Well, I am on the ballot.’ As time has gone by, I felt it was a responsibility to just let supporters know that,” Simmons said “Apparently most of them do not.”
Ed Patru, the communication director for McMahon, ridiculed Simmons’ one-foot-in, one-foot-out approach.
“For eight months, Rob Simmons promised Connecticut Republicans that he would not primary if he lost the convention. He lost the convention, then immediately announced he would primary. Hours later, he dismissed his staff and announced he wouldn’t primary. Over the past two months, he’s been engaged in a very strange and erratic effort to reconcile his promise not to run with his desire to return to Washington. Today, we are as confused as everyone else,” Patru said.
The statement is a departure for the McMahon campaign, which has largely ignored Simmons since the convention. McMahon, the former chief executive officer of World Wrestling Entertainment, also faces businessman Peter Schiff in the primary.
“Rob Simmons has said many times he’s a man of his word, and we take him at his word. Should he decide to officially un-curtail his campaign, we’re prepared for that, as we have been since September 2009,” Patru said. “Until that happens, following Rob Simmons’ on-again, off-again campaign is a little like trying to keep up with an Abbott and Costello routine… Who’s on first?”
Simmons, who complained during his active campaign that McMahon’s WWE connection would render her unelectable in the general election, did not rule out additional advertising.
“We will see as it goes,” Simmons said.
Simmons enjoyed a post-convention bounce after he suspended his campaign, making a net gain of 10 points in a Quinnipiac poll. A poll of likely Republican voters showed him losing ground last week. McMahon led 52 percent to 25 percent, with Schiff favored by 13 percent.
On one measure, Simmons is holding steady with McMahon: Their numbers against Democrat Richard Blumenthal remain similar, despite Simmons suspending his campaign. He trails Blumenthal, 55 percent to 35 percent, while McMahon trails Blumenthal, 54 percent to 37 percent.
In addition to emailing reporters with news of the commercial, Simmons notified his supporters in an email blast tonight, telling them “it is important for people to know that I am still on the ballot and to provide my fellow Republicans with a choice.”
His commercial still was being edited today, with a script developed in the past 12 hours. With no remaining campaign staff, Simmons was using Cashman + Katz, a public-relations and advertising firm based outside Hartford, to produce and place the commercial.
Cashman released a copy of the text:
“Today, it’s important to vote with your heart and your head. Bailouts and tax increases have crippled the economy and cost us jobs.
Small business is our backbone. Let’s help them. National security must remain strong. Put your trust in the candidate who is and will be an advocate for veterans.
These issues will have a lasting effect on our children.
In the Republican primary on August tenth, you do have a choice.
I’m Rob Simmons, I’m still on the ballot, and I approved this message.’