Democrat Richard Blumenthal has a 17-percentage point lead over Republican Linda McMahon in the Senate race, but the GOP front-runner is slowly narrowing the margin, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

In a separate survey of likely Republican primary voters, McMahon is leading the race for the GOP nomination with 52 percent, compared to 25 percent for Rob Simmons and 13 percent for Peter Schiff. Blumenthal has no Democratic opposition.

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“Connecticut voters still trust Attorney General Richard Blumenthal despite the Vietnam controversy. While Blumenthal remains very popular, Linda McMahon’s favorability numbers are only slightly positive,” said Douglas Schwartz, the poll’s director.

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But while McMahon trailed Blumenthal 54 percent to 37 percent, the tally did represent a 3-point advance on Blumenthal, who admitted in May to having occasionally misstated his Vietnam-era military record. Last month’s Q-Poll gave Blumenthal a 55 percent to 35 percent advantage.

“She is inching up on Blumenthal. In January, she trailed Blumenthal by 41 points. In every subsequent poll she has cut into his lead and now has cut that lead by more than 24 points,” Schwartz said. “She still has a long way to go, but she has a lot of time and a lot of money.”

McMahon already has contributed $21.5 million to her own campaign, a record for Connecticut. She has pledged to eventually spend $50 million of the fortune she made as a co-founder and former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment.

She and Blumenthal are competing to succeed U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election after five terms.

In the Republican primary, she faces Simmons, a former congressman who stopped campaigning after losing the endorsement of the state convention to McMahon, and Peter Schiiff, an investment adviser and frequent cable-television commentator on the economy. Schiff still is struggling for wider recognition: 63 percent say they do not know enough about him to offer an opinion.

The poll is the first of likely Republican voters and cannot be compared to previous Quinnipiac surveys of self-identified registered Republicans.

Among all Republicans, Simmons actually enjoyed a 10-point bump in the poll last month after he ended his campaign, as he went up 6 points and McMahon dropped 4. The bump coincided with a modest groundswell of support by conservative commentators who predicted McMahon could not win a general election.

But Simmons suffered a net drop of 17 points among all Republicans today, as he lost 9 points and McMahon picked up 8. Among all Republicans, he now trails McMahon, 53 percent to 20 percent, slightly worse than his standing among likely primary voters, 52 percent to 25 percent.

On one measure, Simmons is holding steady with McMahon: Their numbers against Blumenthal remain similar, despite Simmons ending his campaign. He trails Blumenthal, 55 percent to 35 percent, while McMahon trails Blumenthal, 54 percent to 37 percent.

Blumenthal’s continued strength in the poll is how voters compare him to McMahon on integrity, experience and ability to do the job as U.S. senator. His ratings on trustworthiness and leadership dropped after the Vietnam story, but they have been stable in three successive polls.

By a 60 percent to 28 percent margin, voters say they have a favorable opinion of Blumenthal. For McMahon, it is 43 percent to 37 percent.

Blumenthal leads on other measures:

65 – 24 percent that Blumenthal has the right kind of experience to be a U.S. Senator;

49 – 38 percent that McMahon does not have the right kind of experience;

67 – 24 percent that he cares about their needs and problems;

50 – 34 percent that she cares about their needs and problems;

60 – 28 percent that he is honest and trustworthy;

47 – 28 percent that she is honest and trustworthy;

71 – 19 percent that he has strong leadership qualities;

61 – 26 percent that she has strong leadership qualities.

“Linda McMahon’s biggest problem with voters is that only 38 percent think she has the right kind of experience to be a U.S. Senator, which tracks very closely with the percentage of the vote she gets against Blumenthal,” Schwartz said. “She has improved her experience number slightly, but she must do more to convince Connecticut voters that her background as an executive in professional wrestling is the right kind of experience.”

From July 7 – 13, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,367 Connecticut registered voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points. Over the same period, Quinnipiac conducted a separate survey of 854 likely Republican primary voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. These likely voters were selected from lists of people who have voted in past elections.


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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