MANCHESTER — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York interrupted his own stress-free stroll to re-election Friday to help a neighbor, Democrat Richard Blumenthal. Not that Blumenthal needs it, mind you.
Schumer, a prodigious fundraiser who oversaw the Senate Democrats’ gain of six seats in 2008, took pains to avoid the impression that Blumenthal needs any help winning a Senate seat held for 30 years by the retiring Democrat, Christopher J. Dodd.
“But you can never be too careful,” Schumer said. “And so we’re going to do everything we can to help him — even though he’s doing just fine on his own.”
Schumer, who is sitting on $23 million in campaign funds that he is likely to share with needier Democrats this cycle, campaigned with Blumenthal at a Manchester manufacturer and a Glastonbury senior center, then hosted a $500-a-ticket fundraiser in Hartford.
Republican Linda McMahon already has put $24 million of her own money into her campaign, a sum she says she is willing to double before Election Day on Nov. 2. It’s a big number, a record number. But Schumer says it hasn’t come close to buying her the lead.
“I gotta tell you something: She spent $25 million. He’s way ahead in the polls,” Schumer said, nodding to Blumenthal. “Every extra dollar you spend becomes marginal. In other words, after you spend $25 million, the next five or the next five or the next five doesn’t matter as much.”
“Knock wood,” Blumenthal said, smiling.
“Yeah, knock wood,” Schumer said, rapping on a wooden pallet at AdChem, an aerospace manufacturer he toured with Blumenthal.
As the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2008, Schumer was credited as the architect of the party’s gains.
His brand of Brooklyn bravado came hours after a new poll showed Blumenthal, who had seen his lead steadily shrink in recent months, take a 9-percentage point lead over McMahon.
Rasmussen Reports says a one-day telephone poll of 500 likely voters Thursday found Blumenthal leading, 53 percent to 44 percent. Last month, he led 47 percent to 40 percent.
More encouraging for Democrats is that McMahon, despite months of direct mail and television ads, still is viewed negatively by roughly half the electorate.
She is viewed favorably by 49 percent and unfavorably by 49 percent, while Blumenthal, the attorney general for 20 years, is viewed favorably, 62 percent to 38 percent.
“The reason Dick Blumenthal is doing so well in Connecticut is two words: Dick Blumenthal,” Schumer said. “He’s had a long record in Connecticut.”
Schumer said he was confident that Senate Democrats would find the votes to extend tax cuts that expire by the end of the year, at least for middle-class voters.
“Our first priority is to get those tax breaks to middle-class families, and we’re very mindful of the fact that in places like Connecticut and New York, middle class just doesn’t mean $50,000 a year, but $200,000 or $250,000 a year,” Schumer said.
Blumenthal said he favors extending the tax cuts for couples earning less than $250,000.
Ed Patru, the communication director for McMahon, said Schumer was doing a bit of rhetorical misdirection with his upbeat view of Blumenthal.
“He’s not way ahead in the polls,” Patru said. “He was up 41 points in January. By every measure, this is a close race now. We believe this is closer than what Rasmussen had. We believe this race will come down to the independents.”
Patru also took issue with Schumer’s suggestion that McMahon’s standing is the result of her checkbook.
“Mr. Schumer has built a straw man. His argument, the premise is that the resources are what are responsible for Linda’s momentum,” Patrus said. “We disagree with that.”
McMahon entered the race in September as a curiosity, a World Wrestling Entertainment co-founder and celebrity who had never run for office and had rarely bothered to vote.
But she won the endorsement of the Republican State Convention and a three-way primary, defeating a former three-term congressman, Rob Simmons, who says McMahon’s money was the deciding factor. Patru acknowledged that it was a factor, just not the factor.
“The resources are an important part of this campaign, as is the special-interest money that Blumenthal is depending on for his,” Patru said. “Ultimately, it is Linda’s work that is going to be put over the finish line, letting people look her in the eye.”