On a night when sports and politics went 1-on-1, name recognition scored few points with voters.
Linda McMahon, linked with her husband to pro wrestling’s world of slams and smackdowns, lost her U.S. Senate race in Connecticut — again.
Tuesday was hardly an All-Star night for sports. Long gone are the days when the likes of basketball’s Bill Bradley served in the Senate. More recently, football’s J.C. Watts and track’s Jim Ryun were in Congress.
Two years ago, Hall of Fame pitcher and Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning retired. This year, sports lost more of its sizzle in Congress: Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl, the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, retired, and North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler, a one-time NFL quarterback, chose not to run again after his district was redrawn.
McMahon, a Republican who once ran World Wrestling Entertainment with blustery husband Vince McMahon, was beaten by Democrat Chris Murphy. She also lost in 2010, and the two defeats came with a hefty check — nearly $100 million from her personal treasury.
Murphy, a three-term congressman, made an issue of the 64-year-old McMahon’s wrestling roots, dismissing the enterprise as a vulgar and violent spectacle that belittled women.
“I think that not every CEO is qualified to be a United States senator,” he said.
WWE, as the wrestling extravaganza is now known, tried to clean up its image during the Senate campaign in an attempt to make itself more presentable as family fare. Still, Democrats found ways to remind the electorate of an online scene featuring a wrestler simulating sex with a corpse in a casket.
Mack, the great-grandson of Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack, was beaten by Democrat Bill Nelson, who won a third term.
Mack has made much of his baseball lineage. On his web page, the “O” in his first name is replaced with a baseball. The congressman’s great-grandfather managed the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 years, starting in 1901, and with his suit and straw hat was always an impeccable presence in the dugout.
The younger Mack’s reputation was hit hard in TV ads. Nelson depicted Mack as a bar brawling party-boy. In 1992, Mack was involved in a barroom brawl with then-Atlanta Braves outfielder Ron Gant. Mack insisted he was sober and minding his own business.
Ben Chandler’s grandfather was commissioner from 1945-51, a period when Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers and broke the game’s racial barrier. Ben Chandler, a fiscally conservative Democrat, lost to Republican Andy Barr, who linked his opponent to the president in a state where Barack Obama is decidedly weak.