McMahon claims underdog status as she disputes polls showing her lagging

Republican Linda McMahon called herself the “underdog” on Sunday, even as she disputed recent polls showing her behind Democrat Richard Blumenthal and touted a sophisticated field operation assembled by her $42 million-plus U.S. Senate campaign.

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Linda McMahon talks with supporter Jayme Stevenson in Darien (Deirdre Shesgreen)

“I like being the underdog,” McMahon told a crowd of several hundred well-heeled voters at a Republican rally in Darien. “We are undaunted.”

With 48 hours to go before the polls open, McMahon spent all of Sunday in Fairfield County and only had one public event. She began her day at a church service in New Milford and by late afternoon was headed off for trick-or-treating with her grandchildren.

At the Darien rally, McMahon said her light Sunday schedule reflected the date–Halloween–and said she would ramp right back up later tonight; she’s booked to appear on Greta VanSusteren’s Fox News show Sunday night and will be back on Fox News first thing Monday morning.

McMahon interrupted a reporter’s question about recent polls that show her behind Blumenthal, saying “I disagree with that” and adding that her campaign’s internal surveys reflect a different race.

“It’s going to be tight,” she said.

Her supporters at the rally helped themselves to bottles of “Linda’s Smackdown Soda,” a bright red fruit punch, and donned “Linda” hats, buttons, and wrist bands. One GOP stalwart, Murry Stegelmann, came wearing a Barack Obama face mask and carrying a sign that asked “Scared Yet?”

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A McMahon supporter in the Halloween spirit (Deirdre Shesgreen)

Attendees said they were optimistic that McMahon would pull out a victory, even as they conceded that Blumenthal has gained an edge in the last few weeks.

“It seems to me that she’s closer than the polls indicate,” said Dave Campbell, Darien’s first selectman. “Her ads have been really good in the last week … and I think Republicans and independents are going to come out to vote.”

Woody Bliss, a 74-year-old retiree from Weston, said the race looked like a pure toss up to him.

“I think we’ve got a whole bunch of races that nobody knows who is going to win,” Bliss said. “It’s a function of which candidate can bring out their voters, and I think she’s put the right pieces into place.”

Both McMahon and Blumenthal seemed focused in the final days on rallying their core constituencies.

McMahon spent all of Saturday in Fairfield County, with stops at a Westport high school football game and a Southport backyard “meet and greet,” among other events.

As she worked the crowd in Darien, Blumenthal and other state Democrats were gearing up for their second high-level surrogate visit of the weekend-a campaign stop by ex-President Bill Clinton in Hartford and Norwalk. Blumenthal was in Bridgeport on Saturday for a public rally featuring President Obama.

McMahon shrugged off the notion that those visits might provide fresh energy and buzz for Blumenthal in the final hours of the race. “It just shows the Democrats feel they need to bring in a lot of outside help,” she said.

Still, she acknowledged that turnout was the key to Tuesday’s results. And she said her field operation was second-to-none, ready to give voters rides to the polls and make other vital last-minute efforts.

McMahon said she will be barnstorming Connecticut’s 2nd Congressional District on Monday, appearing at a half-dozen get-out-the-vote rallies in a final push to get her supporters to the polls.

“There’s no slowing down,” McMahon said.