Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was a sure bet to win Connecticut's open Democratic Senate seat, until it was discovered he lied about serving in the Vietnam war.

One day after The New York Times' blockbuster front-page story ran on May 17, the Cook Political Report's election trackers moved the race into the tossup column. The longtime liberal Democrat, who would be a guaranteed vote for Barack Obama's entire agenda, "is no longer the heavy favorite he was ... and Republicans will now play on a more level playing field," the report said.

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"There is now a very long and deep scratch in Blumenthal's Teflon, and the tougher the Teflon, the more damaging the scratch. Voters are now likely to see Blumenthal as more of a typical politician than he's ever been," Cook's analysis added.

The well-researched Times story, quoting from news accounts of his speeches, as well as eyewitnesses and tapes, showed he had misrepresented his military service record and had never served in Vietnam.

Instead, after seeking and receiving five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 -- that allowed him to pursue a graduate fellowship in Great Britain, work for the Washington Post's publisher and take a job in the White House -- he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves in the United States.

His reserve duty included part-time drills, fixing up a campground, and helping with a Toys for Tots drive.

But the Times found out that in recent years he often embellished his military experience, sometimes flatly saying he had been in the Vietnam war or led people to believe that he had been.

"We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam," he told Norwalk, Conn., voters in March 2008. "And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it -- Afghanistan or Iraq -- we owe our military men and women unconditional support."

In another appearance in 2008 before the Veterans War Memorial in Shelton, Conn., he paid tribute to American soldiers serving abroad then said, "I served during the Vietnam era. I remember the taunts, the insults, sometimes even physical abuse."

In 2003, at a rally of about 100 military families in Bridgeport, Conn., he said, "When we returned, we saw nothing like this. Let us do better by this generation of men and women."

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.