McMahon steps up pace in Connecticut race

August 27, 2010

By Kara Rowland-The Washington Times

Connecticut’s off-again, on-again Senate race has bedeviled prognosticators, but Republican nominee Linda McMahon has now firmly forced the seat back into the competitive column by making it a referendum on the character of Democratic rival and longtime state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

Mrs. McMahon has whittled down what had once seemed like an insurmountable 40 percentage-point deficit to 10 points by questioning Mr. Blumenthal’s credibility on his military service and now on his campaign finances. The Blumenthal camp insists the Democrat’s 20-year record of going after tobacco firms and pharmaceutical companies will win over voters in the end.

It’s still Mr. Blumenthal’s race to lose, said Scott McLean, a political science professor at Quinnipiac University, while joking that the Democrat has “done an awful lot to lose it so far.”

While Mr. Blumenthal bided his time during the often brutal GOP primary, his camp is showing why the race is expected to be a bare-knuckle battle by trying to use Mrs. McMahon’s tenure as the top executive at World Wrestling Entertainment against her. His supporters have cited racy storylines, premature deaths, steroid abuse and other scandals associated with the professional wrestling franchise.

“Linda McMahon is trying to whitewash her record,” said Mindy Myers, Mr. Blumenthal’s campaign manager. “She’s earned millions at the expense of the health and safety of her workers and by marketing violent and sexually explicit material to children. Now, she’s trying to buy herself a Senate seat with a $50 million attack machine offering Connecticut voters the worst of politics as usual. Even voters in her own party aren’t buying it.”

Republicans first started targeting the seat last year, when longtime Democratic incumbent Sen. Christopher J. Dodd was still seeking re-election. But with polls showing him severely damaged by personal scandals, Mr. Dodd dropped out in January and Mr. Blumenthal, long seen as Mr. Dodd’s heir apparent, promptly entered the race to succeed him.

But in the intervening months, Mrs. McMahon has steadily chipped away at Mr. Blumenthal’s lead and a Quinnipiac poll in early August showed her trailing Mr. Blumenthal by just 50 percent to 40 percent.

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