CONNECTICUT OFFERS A SIGN OF THE TIMES…. At first blush, Rob Simmons looked like a very strong Senate candidate in Connecticut. A retired Army Colonel and fairly moderate, former three-term House member, Simmons kicked off his Senate bid last year and appeared very competitive. Democrats had reason to worry.

This morning, however, Simmons is done, effectively ending his campaign rather than fight an uphill primary battle against former wrestling executive Linda McMahon.

Simmons made the announcement on WXLM-FM in New London, but he stopped short of definitively saying he was dropping out of the race. He said he was releasing all his staff, ceasing fundraising and would no longer issue news releases.

Simmons planned an announcement later Tuesday morning. A Republican with knowledge of Simmons’ plans told The Associated Press that Simmons is expected to withdraw from the race.

“I will no longer be campaigning,” Simmons said during the radio interview.

As campaign developments go, this one is tough to understand. Indeed, after last week’s controversy over state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s (D) rhetoric about his military service, Simmons would presumably be an even stronger candidate — he’s a decorated Vietnam vet.

So, why would Connecticut Republicans push aside the war hero with a track record of winning congressional elections, in favor of an inexperienced candidate best known for helping run a controversial wrestling company?

Part of it came down to ideology. Simmons had a moderate voting record, while McMahon, now the likely GOP nominee, embraced a far-right, Tea Party platform. For some Connecticut primary voters, Simmons may have been the stronger choice in November, and he tried to pretend to be as conservative as the party base is, but he just wasn’t right-wing enough.

And then there’s the money — McMahon’s lucrative wrestling business made her extremely wealthy, and she committed $50 million of her own money on the campaign. Simmons couldn’t keep up, so he’s quitting.

If the purported Republican “wave” fails to materialize in the midterm elections, it will have something to do with bizarre Republican electoral decisions like this one.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.