Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rob Simmons capitalized on Democrat Richard Blumenthal’s Vietnam controversy with an endorsement today from the Marine aviator who shared a cell with John McCain in the notorious Hanoi Hilton.

The endorsement by Orson Swindle, a prisoner of war for six years after being shot down on his 205th combat mission, is an example of how a controversy fanned by Republican Linda McMahon’s campaign over Blumenthal’s military record is benefitting Simmons, a decorated Army veteran of Vietnam.

Swindle praised Simmons and criticized Blumenthal, a stateside Marine Reservist under fire for at least twice referring to time in Vietnam.

“Having experienced Vietnam as I did and having had the honor of meeting and befriending literally thousands of real Vietnam veterans, I find the Attorney General’s distortion of his Marine Corps experience totally offensive and disgusting. He does not deserve to be in public service, much less the U.S. Senate. As a career Marine Corps combat veteran, I am particularly offended by the Attorney General,” Swindle said.

Blumenthal, who had made clear in his official biography and in speaking engagements that his military service was stateside, acknowledged Tuesday that he “misspoke” on rare occasions about his military history.

“As a Marine, a POW in Vietnam, and a public servant, I am of the opinion the greatest deficiency we have in government today is the lack of honorable, intelligent and dedicated public servants in Congress. Rob Simmons life exudes these traits, and I am honored to support my fellow Vietnam veteran,” Swindle said.

The Blumenthal controversy gives new energy to the Simmons’ campaign going into the Republican State Convention, where his opposition for the GOP nomination includes McMahon and Peter Schiff.

But he still faces questions about his ability to compete financially with McMahon, who has pledged to spend $50 million of her own money on the campaign to win the seat held by Sen. Christopher J. Dodd.

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Mark PazniokasCapitol Bureau Chief

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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