NEW HAVEN, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - After years of waiting, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal finally has his perfect opportunity to reach a higher office, a Yale University political science professor said Wednesday.
Blumenthal need only run an average campaign if faced against an average opponent to replace U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, who announced Wednesday he wouldn't seek re-election, Professor Donald Green said. Blumenthal followed by declaring his intention to take the seat.
Blumenthal has been Connecticut's attorney general since 1991, and has passed on any opportunities to run for a different office.
"He's a shrewd politician," Green said. "He's good at staying in the public eye and taking on issues that are relatively popular. He's a crusader for consumer rights."
Blumenthal has obviously been popular in the state. He served in both houses of the General Assembly before becoming attorney general and has won his re-election bids by wide margins.
It will be an easier race for Blumenthal than if he had chosen to run for governor. Voters in Connecticut value liberal views on social issues but are conservatice when it comes to fiscal issues, Green said.
"Unlike running for governor in Connecticut, a Democrat running for Senate has a partisan advantage," Green said. "The last several (governor) races went poorly for Democrats.
"(Voters) don't trust Democrats to guard the budget. The situation is quite different in the case of the Senate. It's a much more national and international stage, with the kinds of symbolic issues that affect the direction of the country."
Still, there are other Democrats in the state who could give Blumenthal a run in the primary election, though they are probably "scratching their heads" for not making their intentions known sooner, Green said.
In the absence of a scandal, the best chance a Republican would have in the general election against Blumenthal would be if President Barack Obama's administration struggles.
"If there's a second dip in the economy, or some kind of screw-up in Washington..." Green said. "If Blumenthal simply runs an average campaign against an average opponent, he'll win fairly substantially."
Dodd, though, had seen his popularity drop in the state. His decision may have opened the door for Blumenthal, but Green doesn't think it was a coincidence.
"(Blumenthal's availability) is precisely why Dodd was pushed aside," Green said. "(Democrats) never would've done this if they didn't care about that seat. It's not an expendable seat in the era of very, very close politics.
"I assume he cut some kind of deal to not only retire gracefully but be appointed to something in the Obama administration."
Blumenthal should have no trouble raising money for his race, and voters will already be familiar with him.
Critics are plenty familiar with him, too, as he's been labeled an activist attorney general. In a 2007, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free enterprise thinktank, ranked him as the worst state attorney general in recent history.
"I'm not a law professor, so I can't weigh in on the merits of the stances he's taken," Green said. "Whether you like his crusading or denounce it as grandstanding, the fact is he's in the public eye," Green said.
"He, like most other AGs, is constantly visiting one town after another, always on the move, always meeting people and acting like an active ear-to-the-ground public official.
"That's the mark of someone with an eye on a higher office."
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.