The Steel Cage Match of Linda McMahon and Richard Blumenthal, Round 2
Woman Up Editor
I suspect the campaign staff of Richard Blumenthal, running to replace reluctantly retiring Christopher Dodd as U.S. senator from Connecticut, has already studied every frame of available video featuring Linda McMahon, who will be his opponent in this fall's election. McMahon is a political novice but is also the matriarch of the family that owns the often raw World Wrestling Entertainment franchise. Along with her husband Vince, and daughter Stephanie McMahon Helmsley, the candidate has been a staple of the USA Network's entertainment and sports programming. Her largely self-funded campaign has so-far spent $22 million of her wrestling earnings from the successful business.
McMahon is at home among the stagey theatrics of the professional wrestling circuit portrayed by Mickey Rourke in the 2008 Academy Award-nominated picture, "The Wrestler." Blumenthal, despite recent credibility lapses, has been the state's law-abiding attorney general for 28 years. The very different personal styles of the two Senate opponents will surely be emphasized in the general campaign.
McMahon feebly claimed the GOP nomination in Tuesday night's three-way primary race, and by now Blumenthal's political advisers have surely examined a USA cable network clip where the trim blonde wrestling diva aimed a rather unfortunate blow at a tender portion of her adversary's anatomy, and studied another clip where hubby Vince derisively forces a female employee to strip and otherwise humiliate herself. The world of worldwide wrestling is full of such dramatic moments, and McMahon hasn't hidden her lowbrow history in this violence-themed recess of show business. She uses a clip of Stephanie slapping her in the ring in her own campaign media (but edits out her daughter's high-volume witch-rhyming invective).
The videos themselves have not gotten much play in the media so far nor turned up in any political advertising by Democratic operatives. Perhaps the blackout is because the subjects of the embarrassing video also control their distribution. Hari Sevugan, national press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, wasted no time reminding voters that the Grand Old Party "of Bob Dole, Jack Kemp and Richard Lugar nominated a candidate who kicks men in the crotch, thinks of scenes of necrophilia as 'entertainment,' and runs an operation where women are forced to bark like dogs."
The quasi sport's fans are legion but generally do not the reflect the patrician image that Mr. Blumenthal so perfectly embodies. Connecticut citizens are more likely to turn up in the pages of the New Yorker than at ringside for a WWE match, and although WWE reflects more theater than athletic prowess, the towns and villages of Connecticut are far more likely to encourage their offspring to play lacrosse or polo than to be pro wrestlers. As my friend and colleague Walter Shapiro noted astutely, Blumenthal and McMahon both live in the New York suburb of Greenwich, "the hedge-fund capital of the world."
Until recently, the Connecticut Republican Party was led by moderate gentleman Senator Lowell Weicker, who was born in Paris and served in Congress during the 1970s and 1980s and in 1990 ran for and won the Connecticut governor's office as an Independent. Typical for such a small state, Weicker lives in Greenwich, too, and luckily for McMahon, he may be available to help her reshape her image. The influential former party stalwart is a member of WWE's board and serves on its compensation committee.