Linda McMahon vs. Chris Murphy Connecticut U.S. Senate election preview and live blog

Time out for Linda McMahon? - Photo via The Hartford Courant's Capitol Watch YouTube channel.

The final day of campaigning saw last-minute accusations of dirty tricks, Chris Murphy closing with a powerful speech, while Linda McMahon took a softer approach, focusing on grassroots efforts to get her voters out in droves tomorrow. We will update this post as more news comes in on election day itself, so follow our coverage all Tuesday long, Cagesiders.

Over the weekend, we posed the question of whether it was game over for Linda McMahon, as fatigue had set in with her repetitive political ads, whilst her opponent Chris Murphy had received an ad endorsement from President Barack Obama. Well, the fat pocketed lady hasn't sung just yet. There's still a very slim chance of an upset. Let's get you up to speed with the latest news from Connecticut, courtesy of Tom Dudchik's Capitol Report aggregator site.

Both camps alleged that last-minute underhanded ploys were being used by their rivals. Linda McMahon scolded Congressman Murphy on Twitter that he should be ashamed of himself for his campaign telling Democrats that it's illegal to split their tickets. Eli Zupnick, Murphy's spokesman, called the accusation "an absolute lie" and "a desperate and dirty 11th hour trick by Linda McMahon to try to pull the wool over voters' eyes". No hard evidence could be provided by McMahon's team to back up their claims when pressed by Politico.com.

More seriously, McMahon's campaign team was warned by The State Election Enforcement Commission for their "deceitful tactics" concerning the dissemination of absentee ballot applications after dozens of public and town clerk complaints. Apparently, in these mailers they used envelopes to disguise them as official looking or government communications and in phone calls to potential absentee voters gave a return telephone number of their town clerk's office. Todd Abrajano, Linda's spokesman, blew them off as partisan attacks by work shy Democratic clerks. Though this skirted on the right side of legality, the fact that this was targeted mainly at elderly voters and was intentionally trying to confuse and mislead them, I find quite repulsive.

Chris Murphy got his supporters pumped earlier today with a powerful closing speech:

"I've spent my life running to people to help them and Linda McMahon has spent her life running over people to help herself, that's the contrast in this election. And so, whether it is the difference on taxes or Medicare or social security, whether it is the difference on fighting for manufacturers, standing up for women's health, whether it's the difference in terms of how Linda McMahon and I have prioritised the time we've spent on this Earth, we've got a story to tell over the next day.... We will prove over the course of the next thirty days hours that Connecticut is not for sale."

According to the Connecticut Mirror, Linda McMahon took a more softly, softly approach, networking one last time with women in Glastonbury and small-business owners in Southington. She's focusing all her energy and enormous wealth on a massive state wide grass roots effort to get all her supporters to smack down their vote tomorrow, not solely concentrating on the local Republican strongholds, but also all the Democrat enclaves too:

"It is all about now the ground game," McMahon said. "It is getting people to the polls tomorrow."

The theme of voter fatigue resounded loud and clear once again, which will probably cost McMahon more than it does Murphy:

"I am looking forward to tomorrow when the ads end. It's turned me off," said Barbara Weiss of Cromwell. "You almost don't know what anybody stands for because there have been so many distortions."

Karen Balavender of Durham agreed.

"It has been tough knowing what to believe," Balavender said. "The ads have been overwhelmingly negative. It's been hard to know what's the truth and difficult to know what to do."

Mark Davis of wtnh.com couldn't conceal his contempt for Linda while she gave another safe, but tediously boring answer to reporters in their last chance to field questions to her before the election:

"I really feel we have good momentum going into tomorrow. I have felt good about that, you know, uh, really for the last several weeks. I think we've turned a corner ... Democrats come up to me and say they're voting for me, independents come up to me to tell me they're voting for me by greater, greater numbers than what we had in the last time round. And we need Democrats and independents to win.

I don't think you ever know until the day of the election, you're always, you know, going into the election that that night you're going to know. And I feel tomorrow, as I say, I'm cautiously optimistic, but I feel good confidence about tomorrow and um I think tomorrow night we will have victory."

That's not the answer of a convinced winner, but someone who's trying to bluff to everyone that she's still got a good shot at winning.

Richard Cohen of the New York Daily News says the lesson children can learn from Linda McMahon's expensive campaigns is "Remember, No One's Crazy Anymore":

"The clear winner in this category is the Senate candidate from Connecticut, Linda McMahon. In two tries, she has spent about $100 million of her own money to reach the Senate. To spend $100 million for your own proclaimed greatness ought to be in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as a mental disease."

Update 1: Watch Stephanie McMahon doing a Spanish language political ad for her mother Linda. Speaking of the McMahon family, Dave Meltzer of f4wonline.com has reported that both Vince McMahon and Triple H are currently on a plane from the UK back to Connecticut, so they'll both be skipping tomorrow night's Smackdown tapings in Birmingham, England in order to be at Linda's side. Hopefully they didn't bring a bottle of French champagne back with them, chances are they probably won't need it.

Update 2: Irv Muchnick promises to harangue Chris Murphy on his moral obligation to work towards the elimination of the secondary market in state tax credits, which Linda McMahon exploited to line her own pockets as WWE CEO, if the Congressman becomes a Senator tonight. This is not just an empty threat. Over the past two years Irv has rightly gone after Richard Blumenthal for doing jack squat on the issues of head trauma in contact sports and independent contractor abuse, after shaking Michael Benoit's hand and promising him to tackles those causes in return for his Connecticut press conference on Oct. 25th 2010 where he lambasted Linda McMahon's treatment of his son Chris. However, Muchnick doesn't expect any more luck with Murphy either:

"The Las Vegas odds are long on my likelihood of success with a Senator Murphy, too. His Connecticut Senate predecessor, Chris Dodd, is now chief lobbyist for the Motion Picture Association of America, whose bipartisan membership finds glorious consensus in the sanctity of the tax credit scam. And I think Dodd can pour a lot more piss into Murphy’s ear than I ever could."

Update 3: Rick Green of the Hartford Courant has posted a picture of a palm card Linda McMahon's campaign team is giving out to voters in New Haven today. It shows a sample ballot with ticks against Barack Obama's picture and Linda McMahon's sweet face for the "Independent Party Line". Green said: "Folks will talk about this for years to come if this deception works."

Update 4: Despite the effects of Hurricane Sandy still being felt in the state, turnout looks to be strong, demonstrating that both sides efforts to get their voters out seems to have worked. The Hartford Courant reported that Connecticut voters were "streaming to polls" and that the lines were so long in West Hartford that the Secretary of State had to send extra poll workers to the area. Similarly, The Fairfield Citizen reported strong turnout in the county too:

"Drew said he too thought voter turnout appeared high. "I think it has been an especially vigorous morning, vigorous and busy," he said. "It's a celebration of democracy, standing out here at the polls...."

A few miles away, turnout also was high at the Ludlowe High polling station, with polling moderator Gary Potmesil reporting that 663 people had voted at Ludlowe as of 8:32 a.m. "I've never seen lines like this before -- absolutely phenomenal and it just doesn't stop," he said. "At this rate, everybody's going to vote...."

"All good turnouts -- really good," Brand said. "I don't remember seeing such a turnout in a long time."

The Connecticut Post said turnout was more variable in the Bridgeport area, but still ranging from normal to higher than expected. In Bristol, turnout was way up compared to 2008 too. Queues were already there at 5:58am in Norwich before the polls even opened. So whomever wins they won't be able to blame their voters for staying at home today.

Update 5: The Connecticut Mirror is reporting that Linda McMahon's urban area vote pushers are wearing purple T-shirts made to mimic those of Chris Murphy's supporters:

The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Linda McMahon outfitted its urban poll standers today in purple T-shirts styled after those worn by SEIU, the liberal union that is backing Democrat Chris Murphy.

"It clearly is a rip off of our shirts," said Paul Filson, the political director of SEIU, which represents many minority health care workers. "It definitely is confusing."

The front of the T-shirt reads: "I SUPPORT Obama & McMahon November 6th". That's because you're getting paid off to betray your political principles, if you genuinely do support the incumbent President.

Update 6: Talking Points Memo weighs in on this controversy: Linda McMahon gives master class in false flag GOTV (get out the vote):

"Voter confusion efforts are commonplace on Election Day, and both sides of the political spectrum have been caught playing fast and loose with ethics in the closing hours of a campaign. But McMahon’s effort in stands out for sophistication and sheer chutzpah."

Update 7: The Hartford Courant's Daniela Altimari on Twitter indicates surprise at what is driving voting choices in the election today:

"Interesting interviews with voters on @wherewelive, surprised about the degree they are citing social issues as a factor in their decision

@CTIronman @whateversusan: surprised by people citing gay marriage (a settled issue in CT) and abortion rights."

In a liberal state like Connecticut, that's bad news for Linda "It's all about jobs and the economy" McMahon.

Update 8: Neil Vigdor who works for Hearst's Connecticut newspapers has just tweeted a picture of a jovial Linda McMahon about to cast a vote for herself in her local polling station at North Street School in Greenwich, CT:

@Linda_McMahon asks a poll worker in jest if she needs to show ID #ctpolitics #ctsen pic.twitter.com/BOXanukU

Update 9: Chris Powell of the Journal Inquirer fires his last pre-election shot at Linda McMahon:

"[Murphy's] luck is that as long as McMahon is around pursuing her vanity the bar in Connecticut can never be set lower."

Update 10: Linda McMahon pushes her GOTV effort on Twitter:

"Just ensured my voice will be heard by casting my vote! Have you voted yet? #ctsen #GOTV pic.twitter.com/qF2eYgfp"

Update 11: Bad news for Murphy, Bridgeport vote trend behind 2008:

"The vote halfway through election day in Bridgeport is steady in most precincts, but trending behind the presidential election of 2008 when roughly 41,000 votes were casts for a 59 percent turnout. Today’s vote, barring a late surge, is moving closer to 50 percent.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Chris Murphy, in a tough battle with Republican Linda McMahon, is looking for every city vote he can get to offset losses in suburban and rural communities."

Update 12: Latest Linda McMahon tweet:

"Join our campaign tonight at the Hilton Stamford as we celebrate victory! More details here: http://electionnightrally.eventbrite.com/ #ctsen #gotv ~Staff"

Update 13: The Hartford Courant reports that voter turnout is on course to reach 80%:

"Voters in Connecticut packed polling places Tuesday in a turnout some say is on par to match or exceed 2008 as the state's 2.1 million voters mark ballots in a down-to-the-wire president election and a hotly contested U.S. Senate race."

Update 14: The Connecticut Mirror was with Chris Murphy when he voted at Cheshire High School and noted how pleased he was with the crowd that had turned out to vote in his locality:

"Wow, this is good news!" U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy said as he made his way toward the back of the line with his wife and two young sons. Murphy, a Democrat who lives in Cheshire, is running for U.S. Senate against Greenwich businesswoman Linda McMahon.

As it turned out, Murphy's wait wasn't as long as anticipated. Cheshire, like several other towns, divided its lines by street name, and the Murphys mistakenly got in the wrong line, the longer of the two. Elizabeth Esty, who is running for Murphy's 5th House District seat and who lives near the congressman and happened to be voting around the same time, pointed out that he was in the wrong line.

"Look at the service that Elizabeth Esty provides," Murphy announced.

"I saved him half an hour," Esty told an aide.

Update 15: Daily Kos covers the Obama palm cards and T-shirts story, says "Linda McMahon pulls WWE-style dirty tricks out the bag":

"If she can't buy her way into the Senate, she'll cheat her way into the Senate. And she's trying convince voters she's not a Republican? Good luck with that."

Update 16: Neil Vigdor has posted pictures of the set up for Linda McMahon's shindig at the Stamford Hilton tonight, which includes red, white and blue balloons shaped in the form of an American flag. Well, if you've spent close to $50 million on an election campaign, you might as well blow more cash on a big bash at the end of it.

Update 17: The Day has comments from Chris Murphy, who is upbeat about his chances and has been hearing nods of agreement on his travels:

"I hope it's not a long night, but I'll take a victory any way I can get it," said the three-term congressman from northwestern Connecticut's Fifth District. "We feel good. Turnout is high across the state. Anything can happen -- it's been a long race, a good race."

Murphy said people on the campaign trail have been telling him that McMahon, a Greenwich multimillionaire who was once CEO of a professional wrestling empire, was not the type of candidate they should be sending to Washington, "someone who thinks they can purchase a Senate seat."

"We should be rewarding people who are more interested in serving the people than in "adding bullet points to their resumes," the congressman said.

Apparently, there's multiple buffet tables and three open bars at McMahon's party tonight. I'm sure her campaign team will need a few stiff drinks after the polls close in a matter of minutes.

Update 18: The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Connecticut State Council has voiced stronger complaints about McMahon's deceptive T-shirts:

"This is a cynical and phony attempt to further confuse voters," said Paul Filson, director of the SEIU CT State Council in a statement Tuesday. "SEIU is well-known around Connecticut, especially in the cities, for its member activists, always clad in their purple T-shirts....

"Filson said the SEIU has received several calls about union members being confused by the T-shirts.

"SEIU is outraged by the deception. Even the thought that SEIU would support a ticket splitting vote for Obama and McMahon is repulsive," Filson said. "McMahon's support for tax cuts for the wealthy and her threats to social security and Medicare, and her opposition to Obamacare make her clearly an anti-working families candidate."

Update 19: The Associated Press has called the race for Chris Murphy, looks like Linda got trounced again.

Update 20: Daniela Altimari of The Hartford Courant: "Murphy Wins In Closely Watched Connecticut Senate Race".

Update 21: USA Today - "Democrat Murphy wins Conn. Senate seat".

Update 22: Local Democrat bigwig Patty Murray and Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin have already publicly congratulated Chris Murphy:

Patty Murray, who is the chairman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, was the first to congratulate Murphy on his win.

"This is a great night for Connecticut and for middle-class Americans across the country," he said in a statement Tuesday night. "Chris Murphy went up against a mountain of money and beat an opponent who spent more than anyone else in history to win a seat in the U.S. Senate. We worked hard to support Chris because I knew that he would never back down and always focus on fighting for Connecticut jobs and working families."

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin also congratulated Murphy.

"Over his three terms in the House of Representatives, Chris Murphy made his mark as a committed advocate for fair treatment and equal protection for all," he said in a statement Tuesday night. "As he prepares to continue this work in the United States Senate, the HRC family offers both our congratulations as well as our optimism for future collaboration."

Update 23: Brian Lockhart of The Hartford Courant tweets: "AFL-CIO Chief Olsen believes McMahon hurt by all her ads that ran during Hurricane Sandy."

Update 24: According to The Connecticut Mirror, Linda McMahon had no regrets at the close of campaigning, while Richard Blumenthal, who beat Linda in 2010, predicts that such a big money race will never happen again in Connecticut:

As she wound down her active campaigning Monday, McMahon said she had no second thoughts about her expensive entrée into electoral politics or how she ran her campaign.

"As I look back on the campaign, I couldn't look back and say, ‘I wish I had done this differently,' " McMahon said....

Blumenthal said the state likely will never see a campaign on this scale again.

"The odds are against it, simply because who has that kind of money to do this kind of negative race?" Blumenthal said.

Update 25: Daniela Altimari tweets: "The real question after tonight's results: will we see a return of the Attitude Era? #WWE". That assumes Linda McMahon will throw in the towel on her political career after this defeat, which isn't guaranteed, but even so, WWE's deal with Mattel, the Saturday Morning Slam show aimed at kids on CW and their other family friendly sponsorships would prevent it.

Update 26: Linda McMahon is set to concede shortly.

Update 27: Autograph hunters for Vince McMahon, hope they find him in a good mood if they get to him.

Update 28: Richard Blumenthal second happiest man in the room, so proud Chris Murphy could withstand the personal attacks of Linda McMahon. Both of us had something money can't buy, our supporters, thank you to the people of Connecticut. Tonight we start a new era with Chris Murphy, someone who will fight with me against cuts to Medicare and Social Security, for a woman's right to choose and economic growth, will be my partner in the U.S. Senate.

Update 29: No-one could buy us out, you can't buy the people of Connecticut's affection, you have to earn it. You look better in purple than the people Linda McMahon hired to wear it. - Democrat Governor Dan Malloy

Update 30: Chris Murphy finally comes out, big chants for him.

Update 31: "Thank you everybody. Tonight, we proved that what matters in life is the measure of your ideas, your determination and your friends, not your wallet. I just got off the phone from Linda McMahon (big boos), congratulated her on a hard fought race and can say I'm proud to be your next United States Senator" - Chris Murphy. Repeats anecdote about the poor background of his mother, says that healthcare should be a human right, that government can create new jobs, that manufacturing is not dead, time to start investing in the people of this country, bring back our troops from Afghanistan. Talks about neighbourly values. These ideas cannot be washed away with millions of dollars or slick TV ads. Bring up all the threatened workers he's talked to in the campaign race.

Linda McMahon so proud of her family and her company WWE, wouldn't be here without them. Thanks Vince McMahon for standing behind her, jokes that he is very shy. Says she has no regrets, wouldn't do anything differently, thanks all her campaign workers. Brags that they made over 2 million phone calls and 1 million doorstep talks. I sincerely hope Chris Murphy works with us.

Back to Chris Murphy. Thanks his wife and kids. Jokes that his cute sons were worth some percentage points in the polls. Said he's fallen even more deeply in love with his wife Cathy. Thanks the voters of this great state, pledges to represent everyone in the state, whomever they voted for, over the next six years.

Update 32: Slate.com - Linda McMahon Can't Buy Connecticut's Senate Seat:

"As Linda McMahon goes down to defeat in her second Senate run in Connecticut, her loss is a testament to the good sense of voters. For a second time, they refused to be bought by the amazing flow of money she poured into her self-financed campaign. The total spent comes to $100 million....

Maybe, though, we should hope that McMahon isn't done. Just think: If she ran-and lost-a third time, she would be Connecticut's very own stimulus project every four years. The gift that keeps giving, no matter how many times voters send it back to the store."

Update 33: The whole family were on stage when Linda was speaking - Vince, Shane, Stephanie and Triple H.

Update 34: Mark Pazniokas of The Connecticut Mirror tweets: "McMahon rules out run for gov in 2014. #ctsen". Thank God, though I called it that she was only interested in the big prize.

Last update for the night: With 38% of precincts reporting, Murphy got 53% of the vote, McMahon got 46% and Libertarian candidate Paul Passarelli got 2%, so it looks like a smaller margin of defeat than 2010, but still a long way from victory.

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