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Linda McMahon's Primary Win Sets Up a Money-Talks Senate Race

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When Linda McMahon won the endorsement of the Connecticut State Republican convention in May, the wrestling mogul promised to "lay the smack-down" on her Democratic rival, Richard Blumenthal, for the Senate seat being reluctantly vacated by Chris Dodd. There were no wrestling metaphors from McMahon Tuesday night as she easily won the three-way Senate GOP primary, albeit with only half the vote after spending $22 million of her own money. But make no mistake, McMahon's free-spending battle with Blumenthal to become the state's first Republican senator since the 1980s promises to be a steel-cage match in November.
This will be a high-decibel race likely to be fought over dueling -- and conspicuously flawed -- biographies. Blumenthal, the state's attorney general for two decades, is a popular and familiar figure who bizarrely has, on occasion, embellished his military record to erroneously imply that he saw combat in Vietnam. "I do think that relative to Richard Blumenthal, the Vietnam story offers an entrée into looking at the man in a different way and the way he presented himself," McMahon said during a Monday afternoon interview in Unionville. "But it's going to take a lot to focus in on Dick Blumenthal and have the people of Connecticut understand someone they don't know as well as they think they know."
Translation: McMahon plans to spend another $30 million on negative TV commercials designed to convince the voters that Blumenthal is not the public official he seems to be.
Linda McMahon's Senate race is only possible because of the fortune that she made (along with her husband Vince McMahon) from World Wrestling Entertainment. But her record with the WWE is also her greatest liability. As Sen. Robert Mendendez, who heads the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, put it in a snide post-primary press release, "As the former WWE CEO, McMahon built an empire peddling violent, sexually explicit material that glorified the exploitation of women, and the mentally disabled. Yet, it's McMahon's record outside the ring that is raising the most serious questions -- including steroid abuse running rampant under her watch."

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Translation: Blumenthal and the national Democratic Party intend to spend whatever it takes to convince the voters that McMahon is not the business leader she seems to be.
Since the state convention, McMahon had almost completely ignored her two rivals for the Republican nomination -- and it may have cut into her margin in the low-turnout primary. With 90 percent of the vote counted, McMahon had 49 percent to 28 percent for former three-term congressman Rob Simmons and 23 percent for financial consultant Peter Schiff.
Simmons, who earned two Bronze Stars in Vietnam and later served as an undercover CIA operative, had been recruited by the National Republican Senatorial Committee to make the race. But that was before McMahon -- the fourth-most lavish self-funder in congressional history -- decided to challenge him for the nomination. But the under-funded Simmons proved to be an erratic candidate, banking his political future on winning the endorsement of the state Republican convention. When he failed in that quest, Simmons became an inactive candidate for two long months before re-emerging in mid-July with a TV ad that had to remind voters that the former congressman was still on the ballot.
Schiff, a free-market conservative who funded his own campaign, will mostly be remembered for the ever-tasteful slogan, "Schiff Happens."
Hotly contested, but mostly substance-free, gubernatorial primaries in both parties to succeed retiring GOP Gov. Jodi Rell offered a mixed verdict on self-funded candidates. On the Democratic side, former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy defeated telecommunications entrepreneur Ned Lamont, who threw $9 million of his own money into the race. But the Republican nomination, in a three-way race, was narrowly won by former ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley, who loaned his campaign $3 million.
Four years ago, antiwar crusader Lamont, then the darling of the liberal blogosphere, pulled off a stunning upset by narrowly defeating hawkish incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary. But despite spending $17 millions of his own money, Lamont saw his 2006 dreams die in November, when Lieberman got his comeuppance by decisively winning the general election while running as an independent. This year Lamont never survived primary night, losing to Malloy by a 58-to-42 percent margin with 90 percent of the vote tabulated.
Malloy was a grateful beneficiary of Connecticut's public-financing system for state elections, which awarded him $1.25 million for qualifying with enough small-donor contributions and another $1.25 million because of Lamont's free-spending ways. Armed with that $2.5-million bankroll, Malloy was able score with an attack ad that claimed that Lamont as a business executive had reduced his workforce by 70 percent and once settled a racial discrimination case. Many of these same charges were aired by Lieberman in 2006.
While his plight is unlikely to earn much sympathy, Lamont, whose great-grandfather was a close associate of J.P. Morgan, squandered (or invested) $26 million on a career in public office in Connecticut that never happened.
Even in the vituperative Republican primary, it is hard to argue that money really talked. Foley's financial edge was limited because his principal rival -- Michael Fedele, Connecticut's lieutenant governor -- also received $2.5 million from the state's public-financing program. With 90 percent of the vote in, Foley had 42 percent, Fedele 39 percent with another 19 percent going to Oz Griebel, a business association executive who did not receive state campaign funds.
Connecticut is reliably blue state in national elections, but the last Democratic governor was elected in 1986. The real challenge facing both Malloy and Foley in the months ahead will be to have their TV commercials noticed by the voters amid the "money not only talks, it shouts at the top of its lungs" McMahon-versus-Blumenthal Senate race.
Filed Under: 2010 Elections

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16 Comments

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jgutmanmd

Does it matter who wins? Only if they have ill intent. That is exactly what should be asked

August 11 2010 at 6:41 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
revblueroof

On Tuesday Aug. 10, the republican party showed what it really stands for, while Linda was spending 22 million to get her self nominated for the senate, the minority leader of the House of Representatives was calling police, fire fighters, and teachers "special interests," and urgeing the defeat of a bill providing assistance to the states to pay these people. They are willing to spend $22 million in pusuit of power, but nothing for education and public saftey. If Linda really wanted to help the people of CT, she could have contributed $22 Million yo the satet's education funds, or for the support of publice saftey workers.

August 11 2010 at 6:18 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
vivralafrance

The money comes from her husband and the pain and sweat of pro wrestlers who were treated like cattle. No surprise she plans to spend another 30 MILLION on NEGATIVE TV ads.

August 11 2010 at 3:47 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
vivralafrance

spending 55 million to get a job, very surreal

August 11 2010 at 3:43 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
ettu

Time for the rest of the country to help McMahon out. I would be far more inclined to support a candidate that spent their OWN MONEY, which shows a sincere desire to work for the people, rather than the one who spent YOUR MONEY, in order to gain a position where they could take MORE of your money. You go Linda. I'm from Illinois, but I have donated (small amounts, all I could afford) to other candidates around the country who seem like they would be the best choice in what is being offered.

August 11 2010 at 12:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to ettu's comment
dadofcassie35

It seems that your conclusion is that only people with money should hold office.No ettu, people spend their own money to get in office so they can get POWER! It very ,very rarely "shows a sincere desire to work for the people."

August 11 2010 at 2:42 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
revblueroof

What does someone who can spend $55 million on a campaign know about the problems of the common folk of Connecticut?

August 11 2010 at 6:20 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
eduardo1

Now, everybody wonder's why these politician's are the way they are. The one's that get elected are filthy rich. Have no idea how the middle class and poor struggle. Unfortuntly, Money, Money, Money talk's and we are stuck with the tax's and the struggle. While there vacationing in there 2nd homes and driving there Bentley's. Make's me sick.

August 11 2010 at 12:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to eduardo1's comment
ettu

The answer to that problem is, individual taxpayer funding of campaigns. Eliminates ALL other interests, and gives many more the opportunity to run for office. Taxpayers pay into the fund when they file their State and Fed tax returns, based on their income. Funds are distributed equally to the candidates, based on the level of office they seek. Pres/Gov would get more than Congressman/Clerk, etc.

August 11 2010 at 4:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ettu

If all else was equal, I would have to trust the integrity and sincerity of the candidate spending their own money, instead of the one spending your money. Seems that those spending YOUR money are simply forging ahead with $ signs in their eyes, looking for the best way to take more from you, for themselves.

August 11 2010 at 12:30 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
My own screen

Someone tell us Americans what is wrong when some endorse a person who happens to be Republican GOP Candidate McMahon. This candidate has made a fortune creating and displaying the worst in entertainment non-sport. Who didn't pay medical for its employees. Who turned her head on steroid use and who used the money which should have gone for employee medical benefits and instead used for a Senatorial campaign to gain power. The media needs to investigate her and her company which had a subpar record for drug testing and did have employees die due to this abuse even after some of the matches.

Americans tell us what's wrong when people set up websites and support an airline attendant who swore on the airline PA System, who stole bottles of beer, and opened a door on the plane and left unauthorized by the captain of the plane. These are the issues Americans and I suggest that you let this be your guide in the selecting appropriate people to lead our country.

August 11 2010 at 11:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to My own screen's comment
ettu

To continue...........a person who created hundreds of jobs for people and knows how to build something that is profitable. Did you really think she should put in the blood, sweat, and tears for nothing? Is that what you expect to get after your work week......nothing? She is spending HER OWN money, unlike most politicians who spend YOUR MONEY, in hopes of taking more from you in the future, without having accomplished anything for the benefit of the American people and our Country.

August 11 2010 at 12:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
artpar17

what politician didnt "BUY" their way in? Its a rich persons game. As Mike Bloomberg NYC mayor or former NJ Governor Jon Corzine or hudreds of others who "BUY" In Linda McMahon is no different, She is a successful businesswoman unlke the guy who lied about being in combat. Good for her Vote out all incumbents and liars

August 11 2010 at 11:32 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
vobox3343

Strange, folks with this kind of money don't want their taxes raised for the common good of America and Americans, but are always willing to throw it away for power sake. I'm so glad Conservatives follow the teachings of Christ - "Give all your money to the poor and follow me."

August 11 2010 at 11:29 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

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