It's been almost a week since we last brought you up to speed with the comings and going of the U.S. Senate race in Connecticut featuring former WWE CEO Linda McMahon. Partly that was due to Hurricane Sandy, which meant that campaigning came to a halt for a few days, as everyone focused on the rescue effort.
The timing of the storm was a disaster for McMahon, as she needed to hit the last week hard to attempt to regain ground on her opponent Chris Murphy, who easily outperformed her in the four debates they had together. While Murphy looked statesmanlike by organising emergency operations in his Congressional district, McMahon was left to dole out pizzas to volunteer firefighters, coloring books, crayons and Halloween candy to kids in shelters, and some rather uneasy looking hugs to complete strangers.
Unfortunately the saccharine sweet, grandmotherly image she was trying to push to the media didn't mix well with the decision to keep airing her political advertisements throughout the humanitarian crisis. In bad national publicity, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams offhandedly noted how unnerving that was to him personally:
"In this part of the country, those who do have TV are seeing attack ads from a woman named Linda McMahon who's running for Senate up in Connecticut - airing like nothing had changed - juxtaposed against the damage, it's just a very strange time."
Just like in 2010, fatigue and irritation has begun to set in with the local electorate and their New York neighbours from McMahon using her wealth to pump their airwaves with her message nonstop for the past several weeks, as The New York Times noted today:
"Laura Randall, of Fairfield, said that she had planned to vote for Ms. McMahon but that the campaign's barrage of advertising had turned her off, "I swear, if I hear, ‘I'm Linda McMahon and I approve this message' one more time...' " she said with a grimace."
The saying that you're not able to teach an old dog new tricks comes to mind.
It wouldn't be so bad, if she had something new to say, but her latest two ads are just more of the same schtick she's been using throughout her campaign. Trying to portray herself as an independent thinker for the umpteenth time, Linda invoked the image of Democratic President John F. Kennedy while humbly asking for people's votes, a shameless tactic that she already used in 2010. Then there's the mock job interview with a computer generated image of Chris Murphy, which, while creative, just repeats the same slurs that he's an overpaid slacker with no jobs plan we've all heard for two months now. Resting on her laurels, there was no new last minute bombshell against Murphy, obviously thinking if you keep throwing the same mud at him it will eventually stick.
Murphy, on the other hand, still had a trump card to play, the video ad above featuring none other than Barack Obama singing his praises:
"I know Chris Murphy. Chris has a real record of job creation here in Connecticut and a jobs plan that puts the middle class first. And I know Chris Murphy will always stand up to those who would turn back the clock on women's health. I know the stakes are high and I need Chris Murphy as a partner in the United States Senate. Connecticut, I hope you support him."
Ladies and gentlemen, I think that's game, set and match to Mr. Murphy. Obama is highly popular in the area and will comfortably win the state's electoral college votes for President, thus his ringing endorsement of Chris Murphy should ensure victory for his junior Democrat partner too. I think Barack Obama wouldn't have personally stepped in, if Mrs. McMahon hadn't issued such a clumsy ad encouraging ticket splitting by finding four local Obama supporters willing to say on camera that they were crossing the aisle to vote for lovely Linda. So it doubly backfired, as many hardcore Republican voters thought she was endorsing or would play nice with Obama, consequently losing their intransigent votes.
Indeed, the latest poll in the CT U.S. Senate race, by the Democrat leaning Public Policy Polling puts Chris Murphy ahead 52-43, a whopping 9 points ahead, raising the possibility that he might win almost as comfortably against Linda as Dick Blumenthal did in 2010. The other statistics they obtained painted an even bleaker picture for McMahon's chances of pulling off an astonishing upset:
"Linda McMahon, already unpopular, has just become more disliked by voters in the state over the last couple weeks. Only 37% have a favorable opinion of her to 52% with an unfavorable one. For a Republican to win in Connecticut requires their party to be strongly unified around them. But McMahon is losing 19% of the GOP vote to Murphy, a good deal more than the 14% of Democrats she's picking up. McMahon is also performing terribly with women, trailing Murphy 55-39 with them."
Trying to make sure her supporters don't stay at home on Tuesday, Linda McMahon's website claimed the results of the poll were a liberal conspiracy and that she will win on the day itself:
"PPP’s newly released poll is nothing more than a desperate stunt," McMahon campaign manager Corey Bliss said. "This poll is clearly meant to discourage Linda McMahon’s supporters.... PPP is nothing more than a front for the Democrats, and this is a sad stunt. Our supporters won’t be deterred by the Democrats’ desperation."
Well, if Linda loses, then it won't be for a lack of spending, as she's planning a big push in three days time to mobilise all her supporters in the state to ensure that she maximises her vote count. Given her unpopularity with the majority, I can't see that as enough to sneak a victory.
McMahon also had the pesky headache of the Weicker family to deal with; both Lowell, the former U.S. Senator of Connecticut, who was kicked off the WWE Board of Directors for failing to endorse Linda in 2010, and his politically active wife Claudia got their claws out this week. First, Claudia penned an op-ed piece for The Day where she argued that McMahon failed the litmus test on the watershed issue of female health rights, then Lowell gave his two pennies worth in the aforementioned NYT article:
"It’s bad enough to have ‘super PACs’ go around and spend whatever they want, but if you can just buy a Senate seat, I think that’s outrageous."
WWE buying their political influence for twelve years was obviously A-ok though. I don't think these two money-grubbers opinions will count for much thankfully, but Linda could have done without their attacks at this crucial stage.
Another thorn in Linda's side has been Sandra Fluke, famously labelled a "slut" by Rush Limbaugh for advocating contraceptive mandates, who was out stumping for Chris Murphy today and had this to say about McMahon:
"I've seen some of the crap that Linda McMahon is pulling,'' Fluke said. "You've seen her going around Connecticut saying 'I'm pro-choice.' Ms. McMahon, you are not pro-choice if you stand for the Blunt amendment."
That's not going to help McMahon boost her numbers with college educated women either!
The icing on the cake was USA Today calling McMahon's No Plan attack advertisment against Murphy, one of the worst 5 political ads of the year:
"The most laughably absurd ad comes from Connecticut Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon. Her take-down of her opponent, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, is pretty much false or misleading from the get-go on issues ranging from Social Security to Medicare. But what makes it stand out is the claim that Murphy has been "raking in $1 million in salary." Murphy has in fact pulled in a little more than $1 million - over six years in Congress during which his annual salary was about $175,000. This line of attack is even more amusing as it comes from McMahon, who built a professional wrestling empire with her husband; their stock alone is worth about $400 million."
This follows on from winning the ninth biggest CEO screw-up of 2010 from Forbes.com for admitting that she didn't know whether WWE paid any of its employees minimum wage, or even what Connecticut's minimum wage was. At least the $100 million she's spent has bagged her some booby prizes, I suppose.
The big question from a wrestling standpoint is the reaction of the rest of Linda's family to this impending political doom. Will Vince, Paul and Stephanie stay in Connecticut to console her or will they all bugger off to Europe to tape WWE TV and leave her to face the music by herself? The reaction to the fallout, win, lose or draw, should be fascinating to see, as this is one of the few moments when we will get a very public glimpse at the personal dynamics within wrestling's top monarchy.