Is Connecticut Ready to Elect Linda McMahon?

Making sense of the former WWE executive's surprising new surge in the polls

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Could wrestling executive Linda McMahon be the next United States Senator from Connecticut? What seemed impossible--or highly unlikely--just a few months ago is looking like a distinct possibility just five weeks before election day. A new Quinnipiac poll shows McMahon trailing Democratic attorney general Richard Blumenthal by just three points in the battle to succeed retiring Senator Chris Dodd. (By way of comparison: McMahon trailed Blumenthal by 32 points in January.) Is the indigo blue Nutmeg State really ready to vote Tea Party? A sampling of opinions:

  • History Repeating  McMahon's rise is an extension of Connecticut's quietly idiosyncratic political tradition, writes Salon's Steve Kornacki. Explains Kornacki:

Her rise is hardly unprecedented. It was 20 years ago that [Lowell] Weicker won the governorship as an independent, his victory keyed by defections from traditional Democratic voters. In that race, the Democratic nominee, then-Rep. Bruce Morrison, finished with just 20 percent of the vote, despite strong establishment support. Given that experience, it's hardly shocking that in an anti-Democratic climate like this year's, a fantastically wealthy businesswoman could spend her way into contention while running on the Republican line.

  • Different Climate  Voter unrest has fueled McMahon's ascent, contends Emily Bazelon of Slate's Double X blog. Blumenthal was "plenty hard charging as attorney general" but since becoming a candidate he's only managed to "repeat his understanding of voter anger on autopilot."
  • Weak Opponent  The Hartford Courant's Colin McEnroe blames Blumenthal for running a lackluster campaign. "The drift of this campaign," opines McEnroe, "is like climate change. At a certain point, the trends are so steep that it doesn't matter whether we recycle or not. It hasn't gotten that bad yet, but it's getting there. Blumenthal has just a few days to find a new message and a media strategy that fits his persona and then a month in which to pound it home."
  • It's Still Connecticut  Newsweek's David Graham concedes the race is tightening, but remains skeptical about McMahon's ability to pull the upset. "She ought to be easy to beat," writes Graham. "She has no experience in politics; her campaign is largely self-funded, making her easy to paint as a fat cat." The pro-wresting connection continues to be a liability for her (suffice it to say there's a lot of embarrassing video out there, as well as accusations about steroid abuse)." Respite revelations Blumenthal misrepresented his service in Vietnam, the attorney general remains "well regarded and well known" with voters. "It's a real forehead-smacker," admits Graham. Ultimately, he concludes, "it may be time for Democrats to panic in Connecticut, but not yet time for them to despair."
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