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Rob Simmons up with second TV ad in re-started Senate campaign

By Felicia Sonmez

Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R) is up with his second TV ad since he suspended his Connecticut Senate bid, a 30-second spot that highlights his commitment to service -- and seems to affirm he is running hard to win the Aug. 10 primary against frontrunner former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon.

"The right to serve is earned. It's not bought. It's not entered into on a whim," the narrator of the new spot says in what appears to be a not-very-veiled reference to McMahon who has spent more than $22 million from her own fortune on her bid. "Lest we forget, service is what we ask of our leaders, and service is the yardstick by which we measure them," the ad continues.

Simmons, who suspended his bid in May after losing the state Republican Party nomination to McMahon but is now apparently back in the game, is spending at least $350,000 on the new ad, according to a spokesperson. (At the end of June, Simmons had $885,000 in the bank.)

The new ad follows one that Simmons went up with two weeks ago in which the former congressman and retired Army colonel reminded voters: "I'm Rob Simmons, I'm still on the ballot and I approved this message."

But with significant ground to make up against McMahon -- a recent Quinnipiac University poll showed him trailing by 27 points -- what exactly Simmons plans to achieve by re-entering the race (sort of) so close to the primary is unclear.

Simmons campaign chairman Eric Janney said that the former Congressman decided to re-enter the race in part because supporters began urging him after the Quinnipiac poll showed him having essentially the same chance as McMahon of beating state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) in the fall. (The poll showed Blumenthal leading McMahon 54 percent to 37 percent and leading Simmons 55 percent to 35 percent.)

"He had a number of folks say, 'Gosh, I wish you were still running,'" Janney said.

Simmons has also picked up the endorsements of several influential newspapers including the Hartford Courant, the New London Day and the Norwich Bulletin.

Janney noted that the campaign has not done any of its own polling since Simmons un-suspended his bid and is not doing much fundraising, with most of the money he had on hand at the end of June being devoted to the two new TV ads.

Simmons' staff has been pared down to a part-time bookkeeper and a full-time scheduler who is also a college student; they work out of the same headquarters that Simmons used before suspending his bid. In addition, Simmons' family is playing an active role in his recently re-launched campaign; his daughter, Jane, had been with the campaign since February as a volunteer, and his wife, Heidi, a full-time schoolteacher, has been playing a stepped-up role as well.

Campaign manager Jim Barnett, pollster Neil Newhouse and media consultant Paul Curcio are not involved in the Simmons' re-start effort.

McMahon has taken heat over controversies surrounding her tenure at WWE but while Simmons may indeed fare as well as her in general election match-ups, he still has to get through the primary. And with polls showing McMahon besting him by more than 2-to-1 and outspending him by more than that, Simmons' resurrected bid remains a long shot at best.

He is, however, in the early lead for oddest campaign of the 2010 midterms. So, that's something.

By The Fix  |  August 2, 2010; 1:41 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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