Linda McMahon has risked alienating her conservative supporters by airing an advertisement encouraging Barack Obama voters to cross the aisle and vote for an "independent thinker". Loyal Republicans Rob Simmons and Christopher Shays, who were both defeated by Linda in past primary races, were puzzled and disappointed by the treacherous ad.
The latest storm in a teacup Linda McMahon has caused on the campaign trail is this seemingly innocuous advertisement that she recently approved where several local female / minority Barack Obama supporters say that they'll be voting for lovely Linda on the independent line in just 12 days time. She recognises that to win in Connecticut, a state that leans blue and Obama has a whopping 14 point lead over Mitt Romney, she needs to win over enough independents and disgruntled Democrats to overcome the partisan advantage that her opponent Chris Murphy has on his side, hence the constant pushing of herself as an "independent thinker" rather than a staunch Republican. Of course, by doing such an ad encouraging ticket splitting, she risks alienating the Republican base in the state and also opens herself up to the charge that she'll say anything to get elected.
To some extent this strategy has indeed backfired. As CT News Junkie reports, many of her Facebook followers replied that she had lost their vote due to the ad, proving that though you can micromanage your message by relying on social media to spread the word, you can't control the response no matter how carefully choreographed your words and images are. Linda's spokesman, Todd Abrajano, claimed that no-one he's directly talked to raised any issues with the ad and blamed Democrat sockos for causing mischief:
"For all I know Congressman Murphy could be sending his supporters over there to make hay."
However, that excuse doesn't hold water when Jerry Labriola, the state Republican Party chairman, perhaps now regretting getting into bed with the headache inducing McMahon family, had to admit that the advert had generated the most complaints and concerned calls to his headquarters whilst he's held the position.
Murphy immediately responded by telling the Associated Press that the ad was "absolutely deceitful", "strange" and "a lie", as Linda McMahon would oppose Barack Obama "on everything he stands for." His spokesman, Eli Zupnick, followed up by taking advantage of the subsequent Republican backlash to opine that even her own party were appalled by her trickery:
"Linda McMahon has been desperately trying to hide her right-wing Republican views from voters for months, but her latest disingenuous campaign stunt is so far beyond the pale that even her own conservative supporters are upset at the blatant dishonesty."
That's a huge stretch, but you have to make the most of your opponent's gaffes that fall into your lap I suppose.
To clear up this mess, her campaign team has had to repeatedly post on Linda's official Facebook page that she is 100% behind Mitt Romney's Presidential bid (except when he says something really dumb while being secretly filmed in private, of course):
"Linda actively supports Governor Romney. The ad is Democrats explaining that they are going to vote for Linda on the Independent party line. There are thousands of Democrats and Independents who are supporting Linda over Chris Murphy because she is a job creator, not a professional politician."
When reporters finally had the chance to ask Linda about the controversy, she reiterated her spokesman's schtick and even claimed it must be "a little bit unnerving to Congressman Murphy" that some Democrat voters are so publicly giving their allegiance to her. Unfortunately Mrs. McMahon then had one of her deer stuck in headlights moments when she was probed on any areas that she might agree on with the incumbent President. Like a baby she quickly went for her dummy:
"Well, President Obama and I? Well, you know what, I'm, I'm concentrating on running for the United States Senate here in Connecticut and so I am running this race to win and so uh I have got my plan that I've been talking about since I got into the race and that's the plan to put our people back to work and give us a middle class tax cut and all the things that are part of my plan, so that's my focus in this state."
One of her handlers then rudely butted in "We have to go" before anyone could ask a follow up question, probably realising how embarrassingly shaky that final answer was.
Adding insult to injury, her opponents in the 2010 and 2012 Republican primaries, Rob Simmons and Christopher Shays, who had both rather begrudgingly supported her campaign, both weighed in to question her judgement after seeing the ad, keeping the story going for another day. Somehow, an email to friends by Simmons was leaked to the press where he said he would never be unprincipled enough to ask his supporters to back a Democratic President:
"Even when the odds were against George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 in Connecticut. Nor did I advocate for Obama in 2010 as a Senate candidate even though he was running ahead of (Sen. John) McCain in Ct. Please tell me what I am missing here."
At least those misgivings were aired in private, Shays had no such qualms about publicly mouthing off about how disappointed he was with McMahon:
"It's disappointing to see a head of our ticket basically encouraging people to vote for someone not on the Republican line. It is not helpful to the top of the ticket and for those running for Congress and state offices. I'm disappointed that she thinks this is helpful. I always ran as a Republican and felt that part of my obligation was to help others on the ticket."
Perhaps even he will now agree with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that the real Linda McMahon "takes care of herself, no matter who pays the price".
The question is will this gamble of an ad pay off by converting enough floating voters onto her side to offset any losses caused by turning off rabid Obama haters? For her and Vince's sake it has to, otherwise it's another $30-35 million down the drain.