By Brian Lockhart
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rob Simmons stopped by the polling place at the Judson School in Watertown this afternoon, part of his day-long effort to “put my foot in each district” before the polls close this primary day.
He got a warm welcome from Phil Mauriello, who served in the Army from 1962 to 1967.
Mauriello noted he is a “Vietnam-era veteran.”
“I don’t want to get stuck like (Richard) Blumenthal,” Mauriello told reporters, referring to a New York Times story from May that reported on the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee’s having told the public on a few occasions that he served IN Vietnam rather than stateside in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves.
Blumenthal has said he misspoke. It appears the Vietnam controversy has helped cut into his once impressive lead in the polls. The candidate who took credit for the report – Republican nominee Linda McMahon, whom Simmons has a long-shot chance of beating today – is within 10 points of Blumenthal in the latest Quinnipiac University poll.
But Simmons believes his actual military experience would serve him well in a general election against Blumenthal, and Mauriello agreed.
“You’re the only one who’s gonna beat Dick in my book,” he told Simmons.
I wandered inside the school to talk to some of the poll workers. When I mentioned I was trailing Simmons for the day, a woman who was checking names of voters and claimed to be a longtime Democrat said she would vote for him.
I asked her about Blumenthal and she scrunched up her face and said she used to support him. But she said if Simmons does not win the GOP primary she would vote for Blumenthal over McMahon in November.
She declined to give me her name.
A few minutes later she wandered out to the parking lot and over to Simmons.
“I’m the Democrat who wants to shake your hand,” she said. “You’re the only candidate who is decent.”
They chatted for a bit, and then another poll worker came out to collect her, scolding her for interacting with a candidate.