NEW LONDON — Rob Simmons ended his campaign for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate on Tuesday, comparing a run against Linda McMahon’s money to the futility of Pickett’s Charge during the Civil War.

“As somebody interested in military history, it was a foolish waste of people and resources, with a tremendously demoralizing outcome,” said Simmons, a retired Army officer and Vietnam veteran.

Simmons is ending his campaign, but he will leave his name on the Republican primary ballot, leaving no doubt that an endorsement of McMahon will not be forthcoming.

In another year, leaving his name on the ballot would be an extravagant gesture, forcing the expense of a primary. But this year the Republicans already face a three-way, statewide primary for governor.

Simmons withdraws

Rob Simmons ends his campaign. (Mark Pazniokas)

McMahon, who had contributed $16 million to her campaign by May 1, is on pace to break all campaign spending records in the state by the Fourth of July. She says she has budgeted $50 million of her personal fortune in an effort to become the first Connecticut Republican to win a Senate race since Lowell P. Weicker Jr. in 1982.

Simmons, who won 46 percent of the delegate vote Friday night at the Republican State Convention, said Tuesday he had every right to wage a primary.

“Speaking for myself and my family, however, we understand the mathematical reality of competing against an opponent with unlimited financial resources,” Simmons said.

“On this basis, we decided reluctantly and prayerfully to scale back the campaign. We’ll release staff to pursue other opportunities, and we will curtail campaign activities,” Simmons said. “This is not an easy decision. This is not a happy decision. But I believe it is the right decision.”

Only in response to a question did Simmons uneqivocally say he was ending the campaign.

The McMahon campaign ignored Simmons’ exit.

“Republicans across this state are focused on winning in November so that we can bring some fiscal common sense to Washington and start putting people back to work. That is what Linda is focused on, and that is where the focus should be,” said Ed Patru, her communication director.

Republican State Chairman Chris Healy, who managed Healy’s last congressional, did not attend the press conference. Their relationship grew strained this year as Simmons came to believe that the GOP establishment was more enamored with McMahon’s money than his 40-year record of public service.

But Healy praised Simmons in an emailed statement: “Rob’s decision today was difficult, but speaks to all of what he has dedicated his life to – service. Republicans will always appreciate what he has accomplished for our Party, state and country and we will never forget his friendship and dedication to the cause of liberty.”

Simmons, a former three-term congressman, decorated Vietnam veteran and CIA agent, had hoped that delegates would judge him the best opponent to face Democrat Richard Blumenthal, who has been on the defensive for the past week over his misrepresentation of his military record.

He repeatedly warned Republicans that McMahon would face her own character issues over the WWE’s racy entertainment and its wrestlers use of steroids. A memo written by McMahon indicates she told an employee to warn a doctor he was under investigation for supplying steroids.

On Tuesday, he placed his worn copy of “The Officer’s Guide” from 1966-1967 on the lectern at the Radisson before he began his remarks.

“I’ve always tried to put the public good above private gain. It is this sense of service above self, nurtured in my early days as a young soldier in Vietnam, that has been a motivating force for over 40 years,” Simmons said. “That is what motivates me to make that decision now.”

Simmons ended his press conference by drawing his lanky frame to attention, snapping off a sharp salute and then marching off to applause with his wife, Heidi.

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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