DONALD PESCI: The second act in politics and Rob Simmons

It was Henry Clay who said he'd rather be right than be president. The cynic perhaps would retort that such a selfless sentiment could only issue from a man who had never been president; though, Lord knows, Mr. Clay, always ready to serve his country in any capacity, certainly gave it a good try.

Drafted for president a few times, he was frustrated by unavoidable political events beyond his control and lost each time, some would say, to lesser men. A Whig leader in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, said Mr. Clay was "my beau ideal of a great man." And Sen. John Kennedy cited Mr. Clay as one of the five greatest senators in U.S. history.

It must be supposed that Mr. Clay took his defeats with a certain degree of equinimity. Rob Simmons very well may be the Henry Clay of Connectiut. Mr. Clay's Whig party, which later evolved into the Republican Party, was strong enough at that point and later to allow for what might be called "second acts" -- and even third and fourth acts.

There ought to be a second act in the state Republican Party for such a class act as Mr. Simmons and who ever it was, perhaps Republican Party committeeman Doug Hageman, who whispered in his ear prior to the House interview that the Republican Party still very much needed Simmons' selfless service.

Mr. Clay, who never allowed his spirit to be broken by political adversity, bounced back time and again after his many defeats and repeatedly came to the aid of his country, whenever the call went out to him. Students of history will recall that Mr. Clay was a fierce party man, as was Mr. Lincoln after him. The elasticity of spirit so pronounced in Mr. Clay is very much evident in Mr. Simmons. And it was on display during an (WFSB) "Face the State" program on Sunday moderated by Dennis House.

Will Linda McMahon, Mr. Simmons' opponent in the Republican primary, beat Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in the November U.S. Senate race, Mr. Simmons was asked?

You bet'cha! Mrs. McMahon, Mr. Simmons told Mr. House, is on her way to a significant upset over Blumenthal. An early entrée in the race when departing Sen. Chris Dodd had not yet thrown in his towel, Mr. Simmons took the measure of Mr. Blumenthal and found him wanting almost as soon as attorney general jumped into the race.

During the primary, it was thought by many commentators that Simmons would be an effective opponent against Mr. Blumenthal because his honorable record of service in Vietnam contrasted sharply with Mr. Blumenthal's false claims, repeated several times, that he had served in the Vietnam War. Mr. Simmons also had honorably bowed to his fate, rather than challenge a vote count, when he lost a squeaker of a race to present U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, whose Republican opponent, Janet Peckinpaugh, is supported by Simmons.

Characterizing Mr. Blumenthal's effort against McMahon as "lackluster," Mr. Simmons said, "It's over for him."

The "Obama factor," far from being a help to Mr. Blumenthal, would hurt his campaign, Mr. Simmons predicted, noting that Mr. Obama has dipped sharply in polls. The President's approval rating in deep blue Connecticut has plummeted from 71% in 2009 to 45%, a decline that, some commentators say, weighed heavily upon Connecticut's Obama shy all Democratic U.S. Congressional delegation. When Mr. Obama visited Stamford recently to fortify Mr. Blumenthal's campaign coffers, Democratic members of the delegation were not conspicuously in attendance.

Simmons additionally predicted that three Democratic congressional seats -- those of Jim Himes, Chris Murphy and Joe Courtney -- will fall to Republican challengers Dan DeBicella, Sam Caligiuri and Ms. Peckinpaugh.

If the Republican Party were a real political operation rather than a flag under which candidates assemble to run for office, the party would nurture its tender shoots such as Rob Merkle, Daria Novak or Justin Bernier, whose primary campaign should serve a model for young Republican Turks. And there would be second, third and fourth acts for such as Mr. Simmons and loyal party stalwarts, like Hageman, a suburb party technician who gently led Mr. Simmons to express his support for Mrs. McMahon; though, in Simmons' case it must be said that the disposition was there, wedged deeply in an honorable and stainless character.

Don Pesci is a writer who lives in Vernon. E-mail him at