Even in victory, Blumenthal sticks with campaign themes

Richard Blumenthal just smiled at the question. Yes, he had just overcome, politically speaking, a near-death experience. Yes, he had surmounted questions about his integrity, veracity, toughness and political acumen.

But Blumenthal was in victory Wednesday as he had been during the lowest moments of his campaign for U.S. Senate: composed and measured, cordial and upbeat, but ultimately unable or unwilling to give Connecticut a sense of what he was feeling.

Blumenthal, 64, an elected official for 26 years and public figure for even longer, is familiar to everyone in Connecticut, yet known to few. At a press conference Wednesday, Blumenthal stayed within the comfortable confines of campaign talking points.

Without being asked, Blumenthal held up a piece of paper for the TV news photographers to get a “white balance,” an adjustment for their cameras. In a nod to his many appearances before the cameras as attorney general, he smiled and said, “I know how to do this.”

Attendance at his press conference was relatively sparse. His Senate race dominated the campaign season, but his victory was comfortable, orderly and unchallenged. Most reporters spent Wednesday focusing on the paper-thin margin in the governor’s race, which was marred by ballot shortages in Bridgeport.

Blumenthal’s victory, which was called soon after the polls closed, seemed to generate as much relief as celebration Tuesday night. There was no explosion of cheers by Democrats in the Hartford Hilton when CNN and Fox declared him the winner, based on exit polls.

Everyone seemed fatigued by long season, distracted by the closer race for governor.

“I’m really looking forward to getting to work and helping to put people back to work in Connecticut and around the country,” Blumenthal said Wednesday. “Jobs and economic recovery are the chief priority for this nation.”

President Barack Obama campaigned and raised money for Blumenthal. And he called him Tuesday night to congratulate his win over Linda McMahon, who spent an estimated $50 million over her own money on the race, more than twice the previous record in Connecticut.

But Blumenthal still was in campaign mode, distancing himself from Washington as he talked about his hopes for the economic recovery and the role he hopes to play in the nation’s capital as part of a diminished Democratic majority.

“People in Connecticut are frustrated that Washington D.C., has been more an obstacle than an ally in that recovery effort, and that Washington very simply is not listening, that it’s doing more for Wall Street banks than it is for Main Street small businesses,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal promised to fight.

It was noted that Blumenthal had yet to comment on what it was like to see his campaign become a nightmare for a time, to see him branded a Vietnam exaggerator on the front page of the New York Times and called a fraud on cable television.

Now that all of that is passed, now that he demonstrated he had the stuff to survive 24/7 negative ads, how does he feel?

“I’m very excited and delighted about this tremendous opportunity personally, professionally to fight for the people of Connecticut,” Blumenthal said, smiling broadly. “They counted on me to be in their corner, and they can continue to rely on me to fight for them and stand up for them. I have this tremendous opportunity to really fulfill that trust and confidence. So I am delighted that we had this outcome, needless to say.”

Needless to say. But what was the lowest moment of the campaign?

Blumenthal smiled again.

“You know, I’m really looking forward. I’m not going to go back and try to digest or analyze what were high and low moments,” Blumenthal said. “But I think we had a very solid, strategic campaign that basically relied on my record of getting results, standing up for people, helping them, often when they had no place else to turn. And that record was really as important as any other factor.”

The senator-elect said he was still considering what committee assignments to seek, mentioning Commerce, a venue to advocate for consumers, and Veterans Affairs as two possibilities.

Blumenthal received kind words Wednesday from a man who withheld them during the campaign, Joseph I. Lieberman, who preceded Blumenthal as a new breed of activist state attorney general and used the office as a springboard to the Senate.

“Dick brings to the Senate over thirty years of distinguished public service to our state; first as US Attorney for Connecticut, then as a state legislator, and most recently as Attorney General,” Lieberman said in an email to reporters.

Blumenthal said Lieberman called him Wednesday. The subject of his non-endorsement  during  the campaign did not come up.