Richard Blumenthal and Linda McMahon were no-shows, leaving Rob Simmons and Peter Schiff to debate each other and two minor-party candidates tonight.

Simmons arguably made news for uttering a simple, declarative sentence: “I am running for the U.S. Senate.”

Once the Republican front runner, Simmons suspended his campaign after the GOP convention, only to resume advertising that reminds voters he is on the ballot.

The ads, which Simmons described as “public service announcements,” left Republicans wondering if he truly was competing in the primary.

Tonight, he described himself as an active candidate at a Senate debate sponsored by the Federation of Connecticut Taxpayer Organizations.

“I’m Rob Simmons,” he said. “I am running for the United States Senate, because I love my country, and I don’t like where it’s going.”

But Simmons was playful after the debate concerning his status: “I should have edited that old opening statement.”

Simmons and Schiff are competing for the GOP nomination with McMahon in the Aug. 10 primary.

“It’s unfortunate that our other opponent, Linda McMahon, didn’t think enough of Connecticut taxpayers to show up,” Schiff said.

But McMahon already has turned her attention to Blumenthal, the Democratic nominee, calling him a liar in a mailing about the admission he made misstatements about his Vietnam-era military record.

“Most people don’t say ‘I misspoke’ only to turn around and lie again,” says the mailer, which began arriving at Connecticut homes today.

Blumenthal, who was a stateside Marine Reservist during Vietnam, has referred to service in Vietnam on at least five occasions. Pointing to an official biography and numerous speeches that accurately described his service, Blumenthal has said he misspoke.

“After spending $20 million on the Republican primary, it’s clear Linda McMahon is going to spend the next $30 million trying to tear Dick Blumenthal down — but the people of Connecticut know he’s going to continue standing up for them as he always has,” said Mindy Meyers, Blumenthal’s campaign manager.

Schiff and Simmons were joined on stage at Trinity College in Hartford by two minor-party candidates: John Mertens, a Trinity College professor, and Warren Mosler, a businessman.

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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