Simmons’ campaign chair: “If we win we’re running against Blumenthal.”

According to Rob Simmons’ campaign chairman/friend, Eric Janney, the candidate is not technically waging a true primary campaign, but he is as in it to win it as a guy with few resources but lots of name recognition and a decent standing in the polls can be on August 10.

“I don’t think anybody stays in the process without some hope that you’re going to win,” Janney just told me by phone. “And if we win we’re running against Blumenthal.”

Janney’s comments were the most definitive yet that Simmons is back in the game.

The former U.S. Rep. from Stonington lost the GOP nomination in late May to Linda McMahon, who is using the fortune she amassed running Stamford-based World Wrestling Entertainment to self-fund her first bid for public office.

Minutes after McMahon’s victory speech at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Simmons told reporters he had qualified for the August 10 primary and, despite earlier promises to accept the will of the party’s convention delegates, owed it to his supporters to remain in the race.

Then a few days later Simmons at a press conference in New London said while he would leave his name on the ballot, he was suspending his campaign. He said he did not have the money to compete against McMahon and also at the time expressed doubt he might actually be a player in the primary.

But two recent polls – a Quinnipiac University poll and a Rasmussen poll – showed Simmons performing almost as well as McMahon against Democratic nominee Richard Blumenthal, despite the fact she’s been running pricey ads and he’s pretty much done squat.

And today there were two new developments that indicate Simmons is taking the race more seriously – he has agreed to participate in a July 27 debate with Weston economist Peter Schiff, who petitioned his way onto the Republican primary ballot.

More importantly, Simmons has bought $350,000 worth of advertising time on television stations in Hartford, New Haven and Fairfield counties.

“He found there are lots and lots of folks that say ‘Gosh, I wish you were still involved, still running’ and he says ‘You know I’m on the ballot still’ and they say ‘No, I didn’t realize that’,” Janney said. “What we’re attempting to do is indicate to folks ‘I am still on the ballot. You have a choice and I’m on the ballot’. It’s really about loyalty to his supporters and folks who indicated they wished they had an opportunity to support him.”

While the ad is being described as a “public service announcement” Janney said “it has all the exact same disclaimers. From a purchase standpoint it’s a political ad. Our point is it’s more in the nature of a public service annoucement.”

He sent me the transcript, which does not mention McMahon, Schiff or Blumenthal. You can read it in full at the end of this blog post.

Some of Simmons’ supporters following McMahon’s convention victory had urged Simmons to avoid a bloody primary so the party could unite against Blumenthal.

“The overall point is we’re not poking anybody in the eye. We’re just saying ‘you have some choices here’,” Janney said. “In our opinion we’re on even footing with Mrs. McMahon as it relates to how one candidate would do against Blumenthal versus another.”

I asked Janney what else we can expect from candidate Simmons before August 10.

“If Rob’s invited to an event he goes to an event,” Janney said. “But we don’t have any lawn signs.”

Here’s the transcript of this “public service announcement”:

“Today, it’s important to vote with your heart and your head. Bailouts and tax increases have crippled the economy and cost us jobs. Small business is our backbone. Let’s help them. National security must remain strong. Put your trust in the candidate who is and will be an advocate for veterans. These issues will have a lasting effect on our children. In the Republican primary on August tenth, you do have a choice. I’m Rob Simmons, I’m still on the ballot, and I approved this message.”

Brian Lockhart