By ERICA WERNER and PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press Writers
STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) _ President Barack Obama warned Connecticut voters on Thursday against taking a chance on Republican candidate Linda McMahon, a former professional wrestling executive, as he waded into the state’s hard-fought Senate race.
“Public service is not a game, “Obama said in a swipe at McMahon as he raised money for her Democratic opponent, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
“This is the kind of leader you want representing you, someone you know,” Obama said of Blumenthal as they stood on stage in the ballroom of a Marriott Hotel. “Somebody who doesn’t just show up and try to get a victory by writing a big check and flooding the airway with negative ads.”
McMahon has pumped millions from her personal fortune into a campaign for the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd.
Earlier Thursday, McMahon offered tempered criticism of Obama, who won this reliably Democratic state in 2008 with 61 percent of the vote. Now, 51 percent of voters disapprove of his job performance, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll.
“I think President Obama, in my view, has fallen far short of what the expectation was when he became president. We are further in debt, our deficit has grown, unemployment has grown,” McMahon said during an Associated Press interview at her West Hartford campaign headquarters. “From a leadership perspective, I think he has fallen short.”
With faint praise for her opponent, she also played on the theme of Blumenthal as the ultimate self-promoter.
“He seems to be a pretty nice guy. … I don’t know him personally. I know of him. I have certainly seen his picture in newspapers and quotes and all of the press releases that have gone out over the years,” she said. “He’s very well-known, recognized around the state.”
McMahon was pushing ahead with a campaign designed to appeal to Democrats as well as Republicans. On Thursday evening, as Obama raised around $400,000 at the Blumenthal event to be split between Blumenthal and state
Democrats, McMahon planned to visit the Spanish-American Merchants’ Association to talk about small businesses, then glad-hand at a town fair in Willimantic.
Blumenthal’s campaign is trying to counter McMahon’s topflight political machine with one-on-one campaigning and by highlighting his record of challenging special interests and fighting corruption as attorney general.
An environment that is punishing experience and ties to the establishment _ traits Blumenthal does not deny _ make it tough for the four-decade veteran of Connecticut politics. A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday showed him with a 51 percent to 45 percent lead among likely voters. He had enjoyed a lead of 10 percentage points among registered voters in last month’s poll and had been 17 points up in July’s poll.
McMahon, whose family built massive wealth as owners of World Wrestling Entertainment, has pledged to spend $50 million on the race. She is blanketing the state with ads and packing mailboxes with fancy brochures. Blumenthal’s campaign officials acknowledge they can’t match that.
Elliott reported from West Hartford, Conn.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)