Wills Pike, the master of ceremonies at the Montville Republican Town Committee barbecue, and Leora Levy, winner of the Republican nomination to take on U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, listen as Donald Trump speaks on Levy's phone. Mark Pazniokas / CT Mirror

Donald J. Trump is not coming to Connecticut to campaign for Leora Levy, but he is hosting a late-season fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida for her struggling campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

Levy has been unable to afford television advertising since winning the Republican primary on Aug. 9, an upset fueled by Trump’s endorsement days earlier and a get-out-the vote call the night before Republicans went to the polls.

A $1,000 check will gain admittance to the Trump-hosted fundraiser on Oct. 18, and $25,000 will buy a photo with the former president and possible contender for the White House again in 2024.

Her campaign can accept contributions of no more than $2,900, but the event is on behalf of Levy Victory, a joint fundraising committee of her campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Blumenthal’s campaign said the Trump fundraiser was a statement.

“Our opponent’s pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago speaks volumes,” said Ty McEachern, the campaign spokesman. “She is Donald Trump’s choice. Sen. Blumenthal is working to be Connecticut’s choice.”

Levy’s senior adviser, Tim Saler, saw no downside in Trump playing a role in the final weeks of the general-election campaign in Connecticut, a blue state that favored Joe Biden over Trump in 2020 and in a hypothetical 2024 matchup.

Saler said if the midterm elections are shaped by a president, it should be the one still in the White House, presiding over the worst inflation in 40 years.

“Joe Biden and his policies are on the ballot, not Donald Trump,” Saler said. “Even people who don’t agree with President Trump on every issue can’t help but admit the economy was undeniably stronger before Joe Biden took office.”

If Blumenthal asks voters struggling to pay their bills to care more about Trump, it won’t work, Saler said.

Besides, Levy is in no position to pass up a fundraiser hosted by the man who still dominates Republican politics, even as some in the GOP grumble he should be more generous in sharing his PAC money.

Levy had only $285,642 cash in her campaign account on Sept. 6, and she had raised less than $500,000 from individual donors not named Leora Levy. She had spent $1.1 million.

By Saler’s estimation, Blumenthal has spent $3.5 million on television advertising that began in June, when the senator had $8 million in his campaign account. The 76-year-old Democrat began the race with high name-recognition after 32 years in statewide office, the last 12 in the Senate.

Trump was viewed favorably by only 27% of Connecticut voters and unfavorably by 65% in a recent Quinnipiac University poll. Voters were evenly split on the job approval rating of Biden.

The poll showed Blumenthal with a 17-point lead. An Emerson College Polling survey conducted at roughly the same time had him up by 13 points.

Leora Levy on a congratulatory call from Donald J. Trump in August. MARK MIRKO / CONNECTICUT PUBLIC

Trump played a major role in Levy winning the Republican nomination, dramatically endorsing her in a phone call during a campaign event just days before a three-way primary Levy won in an upset with 51% of the vote.

The convention-endorsed candidate was Themis Klarides, the former state House Republican leader who is a fiscal conservative and social moderate, a long-time supporter of abortion rights.

But Klarides, a Trump delegate in 2016, was public about not voting for his reelection in 2020, drawing the former president’s ire. Levy, a GOP fundraiser and Republican National Committee member, is an abortion opponent who courted Trump for his endorsement.

On the night before the primary, the same day the FBI searched Trump’s residential quarters at Mar-a-Lago for classified documents, Trump held a get-out-the-vote telephone rally. 

Last month, Levy downplayed her Trump endorsement as she campaigned.

“I was honored to win his endorsement. He and I agree completely on policy, but I’m Leora Levy. … Trump is not on the ballot. Leora Levy is,” she said. “And if there’s any president’s name on the ballot, it’s Joe Biden, because of his failed policies.”

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.