Senate front-runners survive bumpy starts 

Rand Paul and Richard Blumenthal are apparently facing a very forgiving electorate.

Despite recent controversial comments made by the two men, who are running for the open U.S. Senate seats in Kentucky and Connecticut, respectively, they remain significantly ahead in the polls and seem to have survived any immediate political damage.

Blumenthal, Connecticut's attorney general since 1991, appears to be particularly resilient. Just over two weeks ago, the media exposed Blumenthal falsely claiming to have served in the Vietnam War. Blumenthal, who as a member of the Marine Corps Reserve never ventured overseas during his time in the military, claimed he merely misstated his record.

The public either believes him or doesn't care if he exaggerated his service.

A Rasmussen Poll of likely voters shows Blumenthal, a Democrat, leading Republican Linda McMahon, a former wrestling executive, 56 percent to 33 percent.

A similar poll conducted May 27 by Quinnipiac University showed Blumenthal 25 points ahead of McMahon.

"If you think about how the whole thing unfolded, in hindsight it's not that surprising he hasn't paid that heavy a price," said communications strategist Dan Gerstein, who helped independent Joe Lieberman hold on to his Senate seat in Connecticut back in 2006. "His reputation serves as a buffer in terms of people weighing how much of a mark this was against him."


Shake-up in Nevada Senate race

Nevada voters have shifted their preference for a Republican candidate to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Democratic incumbent.

Former state Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Lowden's numbers have declined significantly in the wake of recent campaign gaffes and she has lost the 10-point lead she held several weeks ago.

A Suffolk University Research Center released a poll showing Tea Party-backed candidate and former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle has for the first time moved to the front of the pack and now leads Lowden by 7 points.

The poll shows Angle with 33 percent of the vote, Lowden with 26 percent and businessman and former college basketball star Dan Tarkanian with 25 percent.

Lowden's campaign has been struggling since she suggested, and then defended the idea of using a bartering system, including chickens, to pay for health care. Lowden rivals are also accusing her of violating campaign finance laws for accepting a bus donated to her campaign.

Angle's lead is seen as good news by Reid's backers. Reid's formerly abysmal poll numbers have recently started to climb again and he will likely be able to paint Angle as an outside-the-mainstream candidate. Angle wants to abolish Social Security and the Department of Education, for instance.

The Suffolk poll found more voters believe Lowden, not Angle, can beat Reid in November.


Around the same time Blumenthal was outed over his military claims, Paul, fresh from his May 18 victory in the Kentucky Republican primary, suggested in radio and television interviews that the 1964 Civil Rights Act should not have applied to segregation on private property.

Paul's comments drew charges of racism and threw cold water on his decisive victory a day earlier. It also called into question whether he would be able to survive politically, as even Republican lawmakers distanced themselves from him on the issue. A few days later, Paul accused the Obama administration of unfairly attacking BP Oil as a massive oil slick formed in the Gulf of Mexico.

But Paul has since retrenched, replacing his campaign manager and turning down most interview requests. When he does speak, his views appear much more aligned with the Republican establishment.

In a radio interview, Paul even suggested additional regulations for the vilified oil drilling industry.

"We do have to have regulations in place and we do have regulations in place but apparently they weren't enough," Paul said.

Since his post-primary, double-digit lead in the polls, Paul has dropped significantly, but he remains ahead of Democrat Jack Conway by 8 points according to a Rasmussen survey that also found 47 percent of voters rated Paul's civil rights comments as unimportant.

"I think some people in Kentucky buy into the argument about property rights," Western Kentucky University political science professor Scott Lasley said. "And even though this race is on the radar, I don't think a lot of people are fully engaged yet so what you have is a kind of stabilization, a return to where Paul was in the polls a month or so before the primary."


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Susan Ferrechio

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