Former GOP Congressman (and one-time U.S. Senate contender) Rob Simmons has been especially chatty over the past 36 hours or so. However, he has been less than consistent in what he has said.
Simmons goosed the campaign rumor mill Wednesday when he told the Hartford Courant's Rick Green the following:
"I haven't made any final decisions,'' Simmons [said on] Wednesday afternoon. "I'm getting a lot of phone calls from people. Six weeks ago the convention was over and I was very disappointed. My staff was despondent. My family was stunned."
"I've been sitting on it now. People do come up to me say gosh I wish you were still in."
This was not completely out of the blue, of course. Rumors about a Simmons re-entry have been bubbling since shortly after he suspended his campaign in the wake of the state convention in May, where he narrowly lost the nod to pro wrestling magnate Linda McMahon. McMahon's own campaign weaknesses have been evident--most clearly in the flagging polls for McMahon in both the general election and the primary, where McMahon only led a suspended Simmons campaign by just 16 points (45-29) in a June poll by Quinnipiac.
Before the ink was dry on the numerous breathless reports about the shake-up, however, Simmons told the AP that he had no plans to re-enter the race. The McMahon campaign were quite busy on Thursday, as a precautionary measure, reminding anyone who will listen that Simmons committed to honoring the results of the convention, where he agreed he would not participate in the primary if he lost the convention vote.
Aaron Blake argues that the basic ingredients for a successful Simmons comeback still do not exist. There is some evidence, however, to suggest that he is still pondering it.
This in-and-out routine over the last two days served a purpose: it reminded the press, and the voters of Connecticut by extension, that Simmons is still very much on the ballot, and that the candidacy is still very much on his mind.
That interview with the Courant on Wednesday wasn't an accident. It was an advocacy for a candidacy he cannot formally launch, in the name of his own protection. By staying out of the race officially, he gets the benefit of not being buried under an avalanche of negative ads by McMahon, who can match Simmons' remaining seven-figure cash-on-hand total by scratching out one check. McMahon can't run against Simmons if Simmons will not officially commit to a return. She'd look like a moron for going nuclear on a campaign that is formally inactive.
I wouldn't be shocked, however, if we hear this vacillating routine one or two more times, and then see Simmons recommit to the race within a couple of weeks of the August 10th primary.
Of course, he could also be biding his time, waiting to see if McMahon makes a mistake, or if the press corps uncovers an unsavory scandal. If neither materialize, he can keep to his word and stay out of the race.
Simmons is a pretty savvy guy. Don't believe him when he says he is not considering getting back into this race. It doesn't guarantee his reappearance, of course. But there is no doubt he is thinking about it.
UPDATE: Simmons' abrupt about-face might have also been due to this: a new Quinnipiac poll shows that McMahon has stretched her lead out in a prospective GOP primary over Simmons. What was once a lead of just sixteen points is now a twenty-seven point advantage (52-25). Simmons also trailed Democratic nominee Richard Blumenthal by twenty points (55-35), which was a few points more than the Blumenthal-McMahon spread (54-37).