STAMFORD, Connecticut — A one-time Olympian and political newcomer is the only Republican candidate so far to officially jump into Connecticut's 2016 Senate race, foreshadowing what could be a much different election from a recent string of highly contentious contests that attracted big money and national attention.
August Wolf, a Princeton University graduate and bond salesman who lives in Stamford, kicked off his campaign in April to seek the GOP nomination and challenge popular one-term Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal. Five months later, with the election a little more than a year away, he still remains the party's lone contender.
Wolf, who turns 54 this week, is not surprised.
"A lot of people look to the consensus as gospel, and the gospel is that Richard Blumenthal is not beatable and I think that's missing the point," he said. He argued that Blumenthal "hasn't done anything" and his support is "an inch thin," despite a March Quinnipiac University Poll that showed 59 percent of registered voters believe the veteran politician deserves re-election and 64 percent approve of the job he's doing.
"This is very important and I think we're going to give him a run for it, especially when people realize that he's vulnerable, we're going to be getting all the support we need," said Wolf, who is running on a platform of "economic freedom, limited government and personal responsibility."
Gary Rose, chairman of government and politics at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, questions Wolf's claim about Blumenthal's vulnerability, pointing out how former professional wrestling executive Linda McMahon couldn't defeat him in 2010 when it was an open seat and she spent about $50 million on consultants and campaign ads. McMahon later spent about the same amount in 2012, but lost to Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy in another race for an open seat.
"It almost seems as if the Republican Party is saying, 'Well, who's the next sacrificial lamb now?' That's what it seems to me," Rose said. "Let's face it. With Blumenthal, they know that this guy is a household name."
JR Romano, the new chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, insists the GOP is not giving up on the seat. While acknowledging that anyone else interested in running needs to jump in soon, Romano said he's been impressed by Wolf, his enthusiasm and ability to raise money.
"The last time, quote-unquote, we had a big name, we didn't win," he said. "Here's someone that's working really hard and he's raising money. I'm a believer in, you just put your head down and keep working. This is politics."
On Saturday, economist and CNBC host Larry Kudlow said on a radio show that he would challenge Blumenthal if he votes in favor of President Barack Obama's Iran deal.
Blumenthal, 69, has yet to officially announce his plans for a second term and shies away from discussing his re-election chances. However, federal records show he already had $2.5 million in campaign cash on hand as of June 30, while Wolf, had $192,823.
Wolf, who stands at a towering 6 feet 6 inches tall and placed fourth in the shot put at the 1984 Summer Olympic in Los Angeles, is relying on his athletic training and experience to help him with his latest challenge. He demonstrates his resolve by lifting 100 pounds for a visitor, using a weight set he purchased for his campaign offices in Stamford.
"My first meet at Princeton, I threw 43 feet. To make the Olympic team, I had to throw it 68, 69 feet. Imagine, OK? That's like, huh?" he said. "I'm going to do the same in this election."