Voters in Connecticut’s recent Republican primary chose Linda McMahon to run against Democrat challenger Chris Murphy in November’s election for U.S. Senate. Barring any unforeseen events, either Murphy or McMahon will occupy the retiring Senator Joseph Lieberman’s seat – and the race, once thought to be a shoe-in for Murphy, appears increasingly up for grabs.
Last week, many readers reminded me that – hey! – isn’t Patch about local news? So, mouse in hand, I decided to learn everything I could about Mrs. McMahon in preparation for this week’s column. As I read campaign website fluff pieces, political blogs and just-the-facts websites such as OnTheIssues and FactCheck, I realized that this candidate is the embodiment of the years-long internal Republican Party battle between the social moderates and social conservatives.
Undoubtedly, party leadership gets it -- the odds of a far-right-winger winning our traditionally blue state are slim to none. And, up until recently, most pundits never even gave McMahon a chance – and her double-digit loss to Richard Blumenthal in the 2010 Senate race appears to bear out that assertion.
To McMahon’s credit, she didn’t give up – and she’s spent millions of her own money in the process, waging a public relations campaign that paints her more as everyone’s favorite grandma rather than the professional wrestling CEO who once kicked her husband in the groin for television entertainment purposes and whose company, the WWE, came under investigation for allegedly promoting steroids abuse among its wrestlers.
On my plus side: Linda McMahon understands business and the economy. She understands what it’s like to struggle financially, unlike many modern candidates. She supports abortion rights but doesn’t believe the federal government should subsidize it. She supports openly-gay military service, and believes same sex marriage should be a state’s rights issue. (See? Something for every far-right and far-left advocate to hate! But that’s about as much social compromise as Republicans are willing to offer.)
The Greenwich-residing McMahon family has donated millions to education, literacy and non-partisan voter-registration charitable efforts. Linda herself donates her time to a variety of causes I believe in, including the Make-a-Wish Foundation, the Special Olympics and more. She’s also earned many service awards, on behalf of herself and the WWE.
Nevertheless, as the former CEO of WWE, Linda McMahon made millions objectifying women and glorifying violence -- although she brushed off that criticism by calling WWE events a “soap opera.” Plus, in addition to the steroid abuse problem, 2010 campaign foe Richard Blumenthal criticized McMahon and the WWE for accepting Connecticut tax breaks while putting 10 percent of the WWE employees out of work.
The WWE also faced criticism that it didn’t provide health care or disability benefits to its wrestlers, who sometimes sustain serious injuries – although they are independent contractors, and the WWE is under no legal obligation to do so.
Regardless, McMahon's business background is fair game and voters will decide how much the company's image really matters. Many have speculated that McMahon cleaned up the company's image years ago for political rather than moral reasons.
Regardless, I think McMahon represents a real-world-savvy viewpoint. I think she will attract moderate voters – especially young Republican voters, if The New York Times is to be believed. Even Paul Ryan, the ultra-conservative VP selection of Mitt Romney, is downplaying his extreme views on issues such as abortion and same sex marriage in favor of focusing attention on where it should be: the economy.
A Republican polling expert for Romney-supporting super PAC called Crossroads Generation told the Times, “just as young people don’t have to buy a whole album on iTunes and can pick and choose just the songs they like, they can customize their political views – and they do.”
A Pew Research Center study found that young Republicans view increased marital and workplace diversity as positive changes for the better – a marked shift from even 10 years ago. The shift that independent-right voters report is one toward decreased government, a stronger economic focus and increased personal (social) freedoms.
And, cheesy televised plotlines notwithstanding, McMahon appears to best represent those ideals.