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August 2, 2022

Pollster pushing GOP to rethink its chances of beating Blumenthal

ANTHONY QUINN/WTNH Republican candidates for the nomination for U.S. Senate Peter Lumaj, Themis Klarides and Leora Levy at a WTNH debate on July 26, 2022.

A California winery owner who has financed an eclectic mix of Republican causes is paying for polling to coax the GOP to reappraise its chances of winning U.S. Senate races in Connecticut and four other states not currently targeted. 

On John Jordan’s dime, the national Republican pollster John McLaughlin surveyed Connecticut voters last week for fresh evidence of disenchantment with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat seeking a third term. The survey returned mixed results: Blumenthal remains the favorite, with vulnerabilities.  

McLaughlin’s poll for Jordan found Blumenthal with an 11-point lead over his closest Republican challenger, Themis Klarides, similar to the results of an Emerson College poll conducted for WTNH in May. But respondents were unfavorable when asked if Blumenthal “deserves” to be reelected.

Jordan is working with McLaughlin and Dick Morris, the controversial operative-turned-pundit who lives in the exurban Fairfield County town of Redding. Morris provided a copy of the Connecticut poll, which was conducted over two days last week, and identified Jordan as its patron.

“He just decided that the Republican Party needs to expand the map and not just focus on the four or so Senate races it’s focusing on,” Morris said. “He commissioned a bunch of polls for Colorado, New York, Connecticut, Washington and Oregon to see if those races are doable.”

Jordan, McLaughlin and the target of their polling — the National Republican Senatorial Committee — could not be reached for comment.

Jordan spent $1.4 million on independent expenditures in a special election for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts in 2013, but Morris said polling is not a prelude to Jordan attacking Blumenthal or supporting the winner of next week’s Republican primary.

Morris said Jordan has no favorite in the primary — though his pollster presumably does.
McLaughlin also conducts polling for Leora Levy, one of the candidates in the three-way Republican primary for Senate. Levy trailed Blumenthal by 12 points in the McLaughlin poll, compared to 16 in the Emerson survey.

McLaughlin ignored the third candidate, Peter Lumaj, whom Levy has accused of helping Klarides, a social moderate, by splitting the conservative vote.

A video shows Levy heckling Lumaj as he spoke last week to Connecticut Residents Against Medical Mandates, a group opposed vaccination mandates. Levy shouted an accusation made at a debate last week: He was colluding with Klarides.

McLaughlin also is a consultant to Republican Bob Stefanowski’s gubernatorial campaign, as he was in Stefanowski’s first run in 2018.

Unclear is whether the new poll will nudge the National Republican Senatorial Committee to take a fresh look at Connecticut. The NRSC has committed no money to Connecticut, but the committee’s chair, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, recently has mentioned the state as a potential target.

According to an NRSC plan obtained by Politico in May, the committee had budgeted $9.5 million for Georgia, $9 million for Wisconsin, $9 million for New Hampshire, $8 million for Arizona, $8 million for Pennsylvania, $6.5 million for North Carolina and $3 million for Nevada.

Ben Proto, the Republican state chair of Connecticut, and others in the state said they expected the NRSC to take another look at the state after the primary, with or without Jordan’s polling. The assessment most likely will be based on polling and whether the Republican nominee is attracting donors.

“My understanding is we’re on that next tier down with Washington and Colorado and the like,” said Brian Werstler, a spokesman for the Klarides campaign. “And if we can put together the money and prove ourselves competitive, I think they’re going to be there in some form or fashion.”

The McLaughlin poll had Blumenthal with leads of 45% to 34% over Klarides and 45% to 33% over Levy. The poll of 500 likely voters had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.4 percentage points

In a separate question, voters were asked if they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the candidates and a one-time candidate not on the ballot, Nicholas Connors.

Blumenthal was eight points above water in his favorable rating: 49% favorable to 41% unfavorable. Klarides was three points above water: 21% to 18%. Levy was underwater, with 10% favorable and 16% unfavorable.

McLaughlin asked another question: “Do you think Richard Blumenthal deserves to be reelected as U.S. senator or do you think it’s time to choose someone new?”
Forty-seven percent replied it was time for someone new, 41% favored his reelection and the rest offered no opinion. Those responses, and Blumenthal falling short of 50% in the matchups and overall approval question, add up to vulnerability, according to Morris.

The duo of McLaughlin and Morris have had some bad stretches in the business of measuring voter opinions. 

A New York Magazine headline two years ago described McLaughlin as “Famously Wrong Pollster.” Morris’s miscues include his prediction that Mitt Romney would unseat Barack Obama in a landslide in 2012.

Whatever the reliability of the new poll, Republicans say they are working to ensure that Connecticut’s candidates get national financial support after the primary.

“I think they already have Connecticut on their radar,” said Proto.

He noted that while the NRSC has yet to commit funds, the Republican National Committee has opened an office in New Britain and the House Republican caucus has reserved significant time on television to promote the candidacy of George Logan, the Republican challenger in the 5th Congressional District.

Proto said he will press Connecticut’s case this week at a meeting of the Republican National Committee in Chicago, though no final commitments are likely until the fall after another round of fundraising by the candidates and polls.

“Part of my job is to go make that argument in the fall when we see the numbers,” he said.

Blumenthal’s campaign had no comment on Jordan’s poll or his push to make Connecticut a targeted race.

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