The hullaballoo that arose the last time Linda McMahon ran for the U.S. Senate against the sainted and irreproachable Attorney GeneralRichard Blumenthal was that the lady was attempting to buy the election.
She did spend $50 million, mostly on campaign literature and salaries for overpriced advisors, and the wife of then Republican campaign chairman Chris Healy was on her staff. Moreover, the lady had minimal political experience, and yet here she was attempting to leap into the U.S. Congressional pool where she would be swimming with such congressional sharks as former U.S. Senator from Connecticut Chris Dodd, who following his retirement flew off to Hollywood, there to become Tinseltown’s chief lobbyist, after having assured everyone that he would never – no, never – become a lobbyist.
Mr. Dodd himself leapt into the U.S. Congress without much political experience under his belt. He served as a volunteer in the Peace Corp, Dominican Republic chapter, from 1966 to 1968, joined the Army Reserve, serving until 1975, thus avoiding active duty service in Viet Nam, and was swept into Congress as a part of the “Watergate Class of ’74.” Mr. Dodd’s political lineage as the son of former U.S Senator Tom Dodd gave him an edge over his competitors that even the $50 million squandered by Mrs. McMahon could not buy.
As everyone knows, Mrs. McMahon, having secured the nomination of the Republican convention, lost her last campaign for the Senate to Mr. Blumenthal. Though Mrs. McMahon had a money advantage over Mr. Blumenthal, also millionaire from Greenwich, Mr. Blumenthal clearly had a media advantage over Mrs. McMahon. So frequent were Mr. Blumenthal’s press availabilities during his 20 year run as Attorney General that they gave rise to the often heard remark: there is no more dangerous spot in Connecticut than that between a TV camera and Mr. Blumenthal. In the U.S. Senate, Mr. Blumenthal has lost a great deal of his state notoriety sheen. It is not at all surprising that Connecticut’s media, working cheek by jowl for decades with a left of center Democratic majority, has taken on a blue tincture. Not so much unfair as unwilling to operate out of the usual incumbent box, the media presents a problem for most minority candidates who fall to the right of, say, former U.S. Senator Chis Dodd, now a Hollywood mogul, or U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, who reconfigured as an Independent after having served social liberals in the senate for more than 20 years. Mr. Lieberman was dumped by the Democratic Party in a primary, purportedly for conspiring with the enemy. He endorsed U.S. Senator John McCain for president and, though vowing to decouple himself from the current struggle for his seat, has professed warm feeling for former U.S. Representative Chis Shays, a congressional colleague of long standing.
This time around, Mrs. McMahon will face a tough primary opponent in Mr. Shays. The McMahon-Shays tousle has a déjà vu all over again scent to it. Mrs. McMahon’s last Republican Party primary opponent was former U.S. Representative Rob Simmons, whose campaign blinked on and off because Mr. Simmons, thought by some a tougher opponent of Mr. Blumenthal, was conserving his campaign cash. Despite the Democratic Party howl raised against Republicans as being the party of the rich, Republican state parties that have lost to Democrats the bulk of their moderate front line troops are the poor cousins of politics. During the last election, U.S. Rep John Larson, who holds the safest seat this side of Beijing, China, outspend his Republican Party opponent by a ratio of $7,871to $1.
Should Mrs. McMahon survive Mr. Shays in a primary, she will likely face the Democratic Party nominee for the U.S. Senate, current U.S. Representative Chris Murphy who, whatever his political merits, is no Dick Blumenthal. So teflon-proof was Mr. Blumenthal that he was able to survive a stolen valor charge that he had several times falsely claimed active service in Vietnam. Frequent media availabilities over a twenty year period in Connecticut politics do have their advantages.
The redoubtable Susan Bysiewicz will be a tough primary opponent for Mr. Murphy, driving him leftward in a state seemingly beginning to show a bit of buyer’s remorse over the hard-charging, sweet talking President Barack Obama.
At the conclusion of the Republican Party nominating convention, Mrs. McMahon received 61 percent of the delegate vote; Mr. Shays, who distained to ask delegates to vote for him and vowed prior to the convention to engage in a primary, received a more slender 32 percent. Mrs. McMahon’s advantage in delegate votes was the result of superior hustle. At the opening of the convention, Mrs. McMahon produced a list of supporters that included 95 Republican Town Chairs, 33 Republican Town Vice Chairs, 20 Republican Town Secretaries and 13 Republican Town Treasures, more than 250 “grass roots leaders,” she said in a press release. The lady put some miles on her boots to earn such support.
These figures, however, will not be sufficient to convince hard boiled opponents that Mrs. McMahon did not BUY the convention. Watch for it.