Republican Linda McMahon is hoping things will turn out differently this time around, but right now, her Connecticut U.S. Senate bid is starting to look a lot like the race she lost two years ago, when her September support melted away and she lost by 11 points.
In both 2010 and 2012, September has been the strongest month for the wealthy former pro-wrestling executive, seeking her first public office. Two years ago, she trailed Democratic nominee Richard Blumenthal by just 3 points, and polls last month showed her leading Rep. Christopher S. Murphy by a hair in a state where President Obama is expected to win easily in November.
In both cases, she has struggled to close the deal with voters — particularly women put off by the raunch associated with the professional wrestling company she ran with her husband.
“The overall arc of the race is very similar,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz. “When you look at what happened last time, I feel like I’ve seen this movie before.”
Her spirited bid this year surprised some observers and made national Democratic Party officials nervous, but Mrs. McMahon is now trailing Mr. Murphy by 6 points, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday, which also showed her favorability ratings and support among women eroding since last month.
Three weeks ago, 45 percent of likely voters said they viewed her favorably, but that has diminished to 41 percent, while her unfavorable rating has crept from 41 percent to 47 percent. And Mr. Murphy has increased his advantage among female voters, going from a 6-point lead to a 14-percent edge.
It’s a disturbing trajectory for Mrs. McMahon, who has spent $30 million of her personal fortune this year on ads aimed at softening her image among female voters and downplaying her career spent building World Wrestling Entertainment into the world’s largest pro-wrestling promoter.
She does seem to be winning over more women than in 2010, when polls typically showed her with a more than 20-point disadvantage. And after pouring $50 million into her campaign last time around, her name recognition is decidedly higher coming into this year’s race.
But it’s unclear whether she’ll be able to avoid another drop-off just weeks before Election Day — especially given President Obama’s popularity in the state. The president is leading by double digits in Connecticut, leaving Mrs. McMahon with the difficult task of persuading voters to split their ballot between both parties.
And Democrats have intensified their endeavors in Connecticut over the past month, making their biggest television ad buys yet and spending a total of $3.2 million so far on ads attacking Mrs. McMahon. It’s a major boost late in the game for Mr. Murphy, who has raised only about a quarter of the money being spent by Mrs. McMahon and only recently has been able to air his own ads.
“She was really dominating the airwaves for months over the summer,” Mr. Schwartz said. “She was the only one up on TV, so she could really control the debate … but now that she’s in the heat of the battle and there are ads going against her as well, it’s taking a toll on her.”