With a new mailer and TV ad, Republican Linda McMahon has launched a double-barreled attack on the political image Democrat Richard Blumenthal has cultivated as a crusading attorney general over two decades.

The commercial and mailer portray Blumenthal as dishonest and, for the first time in his career, beholden to “special interests” that have contributed $480,000 to his U.S. Senate campaign.

Both pieces play off a statement Blumenthal made in an MSNBC interview on Jan. 7, the day after he entered the Senate race: “I’ve never taken PAC money, and I have rejected all special interest money.”

“Really?” says an announcer in McMahon’s commercial. “Since January, he’s taken a half a million dollars from PACs and special interests. How can he fight the special interests if they are paying for his campaign?”

But the Blumenthal campaign says the commercial and the mailer are based on statements taken out of context. On Jan. 7, Blumenthal could accurately say he never took money from political action committees in his five campaigns for state attorney general.

“They’ve launched a $50 million attack machine to distort Dick Blumenthal’s record,” said Mindy Myers, Blumenthal’s campaign manager.”It’s clear from the clip he’s talking about the last 20 years.”

Ed Patru, the communication director for McMahon, said the statement was made during a discussion of his Senate campaign.

“Clearly, the intent was to mislead, to say one thing when he had no intent of doing that,” Patru said.

The two campaigns’ media strategies have the same focus: Blumenthal’s image.

Blumenthal reinforces his image as a fighter with a commercial in which he asserts, “The people of Connecticut know me, and one thing they know about me, for sure, is that I will fight for them.”

Even before winning a three-way Republican primary last week, McMahon set out to sow doubt about one of the of the state’s most familiar politicians. Her two most recent mailings were attacks on Blumenthal.

Blumenthal more recently has said he never promised to forgo money from political action committees in this race, since he is up against McMahon’s personal fortune as a co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment. She has poured $24 million into her campaign and says she eventually will spend $50 million.

“People in Connecticut know me, and they know my record. And they know I am going to be fighting for them, no matter who donates to my campaign, no matter how much the money is,” Blumenthal said last week. “They know my actions over 20 years speak louder than words. I am a fighter for the people of Connecticut. And I can’t fight this campaign with my arms tied behind my back.”

The new mailer makes the broader case that Blumenthal’s comments about his fundraising is part of a pattern of dissembling. It picks up on a flyer mailed last week that listed five occasions when Blumenthal incorrectly referred to military service in Vietnam.

The tag line in both mailers: “He’s not who we thought he was.”

In the new mailer, McMahon refers to a fundraiser by lawyers that Blumenthal attended in Vancouver with Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader.

Quoting a July 27 interview on WTNH, the mailer says, “He oddly tried to deny it was fundraiser.”

In a reference to Reid, Blumenthal told WTNH:

“This event was not a PAC fundraising event for him. It was an opportunity for me to talk to members of a profession about the problems that they see affecting ordinary people, as well as to contact people who might be interested in supporting me.”

Myers said that was Blumenthal’s answer to a question about why he traveled to far to attend a fundraiser for Reid.

But the event was a fundraiser for Reid, as well as for Blumenthal and other candidates for U.S. Senate — something Blumenthal later acknowledged. Blumenthal’s share of the proceeds were about $25,000, according to his campaign.

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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