HARTFORD, Conn. — Soon after Linda McMahon suffered a three-count smackdown, she was back on her feet buying postelection TV ads to thank supporters and looking to get right back in the ring.
After spending nearly $50 million of her own fortune two years ago in a losing bid for U.S. Senate against Democrat Richard Blumenthal, the former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO still has her eye on the prize. Like championship belts, one Senate seat from Connecticut is as good as the other.
This time it’s the seat being vacated by Sen. Joe Lieberman, the one-time Democratic vice-presidential nominee and later self-declared independent. In 2010, it was the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Christopher J. Dodd. Mrs. McMahon is again casting herself as the outsider, and her opponent as a polished establishment pol.
But she’s hardly the upstart underdog this time. She enjoyed a nearly 2-1 edge in delegates over former Rep. Christopher Shays at the state’s Republican convention in May. The most recent statewide poll of registered Republicans showed her with 59 percent to 30 percent for Mr. Shays heading into the Aug. 14 primary.
Mr. Shays‘ supporters, including Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and GOP strategist Karl Rove, say Mrs. McMahon can’t win in November in a Democrat-leaning state like Connecticut. Mr. Rove said she had her chance in 2010 and said it’s now time to support someone with experience.
“I appreciate her running last time, and she ran a spirited race,” Mr. Rove said. “But 2010 was the year where we won a lot of races with a wind at our back. Now we need a guy who is steady and solid and can walk into the wind and has the courage to do so.”
Mrs. McMahon has ignored the claims that she can’t win and says Mr. Shays‘ experience is the reason he should lose. She portrays the 10-term House member, who lost re-election in 2008, as part of the problem in Washington.
“We have to have a different viewpoint in Washington. We can’t keep sending the same people back to Washington who created the mess and expect them to fix it,” she said at a recent debate, accusing Mr. Shays of being “part of the issue of killing jobs and not creating jobs.”
“If you look at experience, it’s not working. You know what? We need to change it up a bit” said Jeff Santopietro, a member of the Waterbury Republican Town Committee, explaining why he supported Mrs. McMahon at the state convention. “If you got more people in Washington like Linda McMahon, with the business sense she has, I think you’ll see a different view of Washington.”
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