McMahon rides millions to victory

Aug 10th, 2010 | By politicsnews | Category: Politics

Money swept the system but the establishment gained a toehold in Connecticut last night, as wrestling maven Linda McMahon coasted to the GOP Senate nomination but second-time self-funding Democrat Ned Lamont was trounced in an upset by his primary rival for governor.

McMahon, who’s spent north of $22 million of her personal fortune from decades at the helm of the WWE wrestling franchise, easily held off a late-game challenge from former Rep. Rob Simmons, who had dropped out but then resuscitated his campaign in the final three weeks of the race, and investor Peter Schiff.

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But Lamont’s personal fortune couldn’t stave off defeat against longtime Stamford mayor Dan Malloy. Lamont also couldn’t recapture the electricity around his 2006 anti-war-focused primary defeat of Sen. Joe Lieberman, which forced the incumbent to re-register as an independent to regain his seat.

Even McMahon’s deep-pocketed campaign left her short of the 50 percent mark in the three-way race to take on Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a fact that creates an appearance of a weakness and that Democrats are sure to highlight given the fortune she spent. The two are vying for the seat now held by Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd.

Still, the Republican electorate will be overwhelmingly behind her heading into the fall thanks to anti-White House anger – and the big play in the state is for the independents.

And it’s those independents who will become the focus of the race now, as McMahon is expected to dump tens of millions of dollars more into her race in an effort to stave off the wrestling-related negatives expected to featured in Democratic TV ads.

Blumenthal had enjoyed a 30-point lead heading into the summer, but thanks to his own slip-ups, voter mood and the McMahon campaign’s barrage of ads and direct mail, he has watched it steadily erode into a mere 10-point edge in the latest Quinnipiac University survey.

Now, McMahon is expected to continue aggressively defining Blumenthal – whose own approval ratings have been over 70 percent thanks to his length of time in Connecticut politics, yet who remains curiously undefined among many voters, experts say.

“He has not run a particularly good campaign,” said one veteran Democratic strategist who’s a longtime observer of the state’s politics.

Political watchers are gearing up for a vicious battle – in which McMahon continues to hammer Blumenthal over the misstatements about his service during the Vietnam War (a story her campaign took credit for heading into the state’s GOP convention) and as a creature of the political system.

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