Just five weeks after petitioning his way onto the Republican U.S. Senate primary ballot, Peter Schiff says he is unlikely to continue propping up his struggling campaign with his own money.
His last gasp as a U.S. Senate candidate likely will come this week with an online plea for money to air commercials.
“If I can’t raise the money, I have to decide if I want to pay for it myself,” Schiff said. “At this point, my answer would be no. I’m already into this thing for $700,000. I gotta get more support from people.”
As Republicans lined up to talk to Linda McMahon at a weekend meet-the-candidates’ event in Avon, Schiff was largely unnoticed by the throngs.
He has a small, fervent national following as a free-market economic evangelist on cable television, but that hasn’t translated into support in the polls or money for his campaign treasury.
Rob Simmons, the other Republican on the ballot in the three-way primary on Aug. 10, had no presence at an event that drew all three Republican candidates for governor, as well as under-ticket candidates.
Simmons generated a buzz last week by re-activating his dormant campaign with a $350,000 purchase of air time to broadcast a commercial reminding Republicans they have a choice and he remains on the ballot.
“I am confused about Rob,” McMahon said in Avon, laughing.
Schiff said he believes that Simmons, a former three-term congressman who was the early favorite for the GOP nomination until McMahon started spending heavily on television commercials, is acting on a longstanding plan.
“This was his strategy all along,” Schiff said. “Lay low, play hard to get. Stop Linda from beating up on him and then try to come back at the end. Linda’s negatives are really high.”
Schiff said his own campaign will turn on an online plea for money known as a “money bomb.”
“I’m going to have this money bomb that is supposed to start on Thursday,” Schiff said. “I need to raise a half million dollars.”
Schiff said he has a direct mail piece that will go out before the primary, but he has been unable to raise his name recognition without television advertising.
He also has been frustrated by McMahon’s refusal to debate in the closing weeks. The three Republicans had one televised debate in March on Fox61.
“The last time we did a debate, nobody was watching,” Schiff said. “I’m trying to get Fox to re-run it. I’ve offered to pay for the air time.”
McMahon said her next debate will be after the primary, with Democrat Richard Blumenthal.
Like Simmons, Schiff tries to make the case that McMahon, the former chief executive officer of World Wrestling Entertainment, is unelectable in the general election, despite her lead among likely Republican primary voters.
WWE has toned down its programming in recent years, but Schiff said McMahon can expect to see Democratic ads attacking her company’s demeaning treatment of women and a developmentally disabled wrestler.
The Connecticut Democratic Party has organized a group, Mothers Opposed to McMahon, to highlight WWE footage of women being stripped, beaten and pulled from the wrestling ring by their hair.
“I mean, it’s almost like Hugh Hefner or Bob Guccione deciding to run for Senate,” Schiff said, referring to the founders of the adult magazines, Playboy and Penthouse. “It’s not going to happen.”
McMahon’s campaign, after initially downplaying her WWE connection, has responded with two commercials describing the wrestling programming as “soap opera.”
The most recent commercial is directed to women. It features two women in business garb driving in a late-model SUV as a McMahon commercial comes on the radio. One asks the other what she thinks of McMahon.
“What about the wrestling stuff?”
“Not exactly my cup of tea.”
“Oh, it’s a soap opera.”
“She tamed the traveling show world of professional wrestling, turned it into a global company and created 500 jobs here in Connecticut.”
It concludes with the women agreeing that McMahon will shake up Washington.
Two weeks before the primary, McMahon already has set a record for personal spending in a Connecticut race, investing nearly $22 million of her own fortune in a campaign to succeed Christopher J. Dodd, the Democrat retiring after 30 years in the Senate.
Polling by Quinnipiac University shows McMahon slowly gaining on Blumenthal, but at roughly the same rate as Simmons, who stopped his active campaign on May 25 after McMahon won the endorsement of the GOP convention. Blumenthal leads McMahon by 17 points, Simmons by 20 and Schiff by 27.
“She’s a little closer to the Dick Blumenthal than she was, but, you know, if you spend $20 million, you’ve got to get some kind of bounce,” Schiff said. “That’s basically with nobody fighting back. Once Dick Blumenthal puts up some negative Linda ads, she’s going to sink like a stone.”