The new CT Capitol Report poll showing Congressman Chris Murphy a point behind Republican Sam Caligiuri is not only threatening his re-election to the 5th District, but also the stealth race he’s been running for a while: for the U.S. Senate in 2012.
Murphy has always dismissed such talk with the pat answer “I’m focused on being a congressman,” or something along those lines. However, it is no secret in political circles that the two term Democrat has his eye on challenging Senator Joe Lieberman two years from now. Murphy’s name has appeared in polls for the 2012 race, and there was even talk earlier this year that if the Vietnam controversy forced Dick Blumenthal from the race, Murphy would replace him.
But something happened on the way to 2012. One political insider who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told me while Murphy was looking beyond ’10, he was blindsided this summer by the strong race Caligiuri was running, expecting instead to be easily re-elected Now he is spending loads of cash in the fight of his political life.
If Murphy loses, his chances of running for the senate will be dealt a devastating setback. If Jim Himes and Joe Courtney win, they would instantly be stronger senate candidates than a candidate whose last performance was a loss. Throw in Susan Bysiewicz and possibly Ted Kennedy, Junior and it would be very difficult for Murphy to make a case for himself that he should be the one to take on Lieberman and the Republican candidate, who will likely be a formidable one. The days of the state GOP putting up a sacrificial lamb candidate for the senate are over.
Even if the entire congressional delegation is re-elected, Murphy still needs a strong win to buoy his chances in ’12. If he wins a close nail biter and Courtney romps by a huge margin, perhaps the party will look at the man from the 2nd district. A while back, a person close to Courtney called me up, a little peeved after we aired a story about a potential Murphy Lieberman matchup. This person wanted to know why we only talk about Murphy running for the senate. “Just because Joe doesn’t drop hints he wants to run like Murphy does, doesn’t mean he isn’t interested in the senate…..it’s just too early to be doing that,” that person told me.
If Himes pulls out a win over Dan Debicella, he could make a case to run for the senate. Courtney and Himes are considered more moderate than Murphy, which could make them more appealing as statewide candidates in a Lieberman challenge.
We will learn much on Tuesday night. Hard to fathom, but the race for 2012 starts next week.