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Why The Attack On McMahon Has Not Worked

The latest Quinnipiac poll shows that Linda McMahon has whittled down Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s lead in the U.S. Senate race from a high of 40 percentage points to a worrisome 3. And yet, McMahon has come under fierce attack, if not by Mr. Blumenthal then by the media. Judging from Mr. Blumenthal’s slide in poll numbers, that attack has not been effective.

Why has it failed?

The attackers, just to begin with, lie under a suspicion of being ideologically allied with Mr. Blumenthal. The infrequent attacks upon Mr. Blumenthal by the media during his 20 year reign as attorney general have been soft core, and political consumers have now come of age. Mrs. McMahon has been on the attack well before the primary elections in a series of ads and media buys, and one is keenly aware of the palpable disappointment among Connecticut’s left of center media that Mrs. McMahon has so easily found a route around them.

Whether one is disposed to agree or disagree with the thrust of her campaign, there is little question that it has been successful; so much so, in fact, that her campaign may be used in the future as a template, whether it is finally successful or not. Instruction number one in any imitative campaign might read: First, get together $50 million. The amount of money Mrs. McMahon is willing to spend seems by ordinary standards to be much more excessive than people in the nutmeg state are used to.

On the other hand, Mrs. McMahon is battling against the Democratic heir presumptive of U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, whose political career spans the living memory of a good many people in the state. Mr. Blumenthal’s career in Connecticut politics is as long-lived as Dodd’s. In a contest of this kind against opponents who have been cosseted by the media, it helps a good deal to be able to dispose of a few million dollars in a campaign. Mrs. McMahon has generously spent $20 million so far in her effort to deny Mr. Blumenthal his dearest wish. She has threatened to spend more as the general campaign progresses.

Is the money question, which has become one of the chief issues urged against her by her opponents, important?

No one will deny it looms large in the campaign. Who wills the end must will the means. Unhorsing incumbents -- or people like Blumenthal who time, chance and reasonable expectations have fingered as the inevitable choice for such a seat -- is no walk in the park. Republicans, a minority party here in Connecticut, have always been cash poor. But money is not the whole show. Mr. Blumenthal is wealthy enough to balance the scales somewhat, should he so choose.

It is precisely the political presumptions in this election year that are being tested. Off year elections used to be decided on state and local issues. The recession – and, perhaps more to the point, Mr. Obama’s unorthodox means of addressing it – has made everyone in the country sensible that the national shin bone is connected to the state anklebone. The Obama machine is a radical ideological national administration operating in an intensely ideological year. Ordinarily, one expects a viable national candidate to have risen through the ranks. In any other year but this, the year of the little understood and overly abused Tea Party Patriot, Mrs. McMahon’s lack of political experience would be fatal.

Not so this time. During Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign, Democrats who ran on the same ticket with him were only too happy to warm their hands at his fire. But when he came to Connecticut to invite Mr. Blumenthal and other Democrats to take a ride on the magic carpet of his coattails, old campaign war horses such as former Democratic Party Chairman John Droney warned publicly that his presence in the state could not be helpful, and the members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation stayed away in droves.

These all are important signs of the times, but many Democrats seem incapable of reading them. The complaint hollered from every rooftop this year is that national experts who have driven the economy into the poor house have shut their ears and closed their eyes: They do not know where they came from, who they are or where they are going.

The Democrats are calculating their chances with reference to presumptions that may no longer be operative. Blumenthal – though forewarned against it – has run a campaign one might expect from an incumbent. And everything said about him, both by himself and his supporters, leaves an impression that he is running for attorney general, a disorienting message to send in this the year of our discontent.

The old political bromides will not do. The chief problem with the Blumenthal campaign is that it is unplugged. Static is not a winning sound.


Bruce Rubenstein said…
Don....First of all I need to correct you in that it is John Droney who is the former Party Chair, Not his brother Chris.

Secondly, no calculation is meaningful unless and until it takes into account the populist "drift" from tea party folks from other states that is now permeating into our state.

Most of the polls ive seen have high numbers for folks angry about our governemt usually about the state of the economy and jobs and some culture issues as well.If they come out to vote they will take it out on incumbents...most of those incumbents in this state tend to be Democrats.

I told Malloy and Blumie in an extended conversation to be much more populist in their presentations after their respective primaries as a way to "cut the populist drift" lets see if it works.
Don Pesci said…

Thanks. I made the name correction. Don’t know ho I did that. Fatigue probably. Perhaps Blumenthal et al should listen to you. In addition, they may have misread the Tea Party movement. Its ranks have been swelled by the drift of independents away from President Barack Obama’s program. Disenchanted independents are not going to drift into the activist wing of the Republican Party, and the TPM provides a convenient catch basin. It’s not the anger but the activism, leading eventually to political alignment, that should worry Democrats.

Democratic Party leaders don’t get, I suspect, because getting it would interfere with their message. They are script bound.
Henry Berry said…
I think another reason for Blumenthal's weakness as a candidate--especially in this time of economic woe and uncertainty and displeasure with the huge and highly questionable government programs of the bailout of the banksters and the Middle East militarism--is Blumenthal's inevitable identification with corporatist/institutional interests.

From Fairfield County, I am familiar with the presumptions of these interests (including apparently the presumption that the Fairfield County State's Attorney's office works directly and explicitly for them). With the financial crisis and wide-ranging questions about the competency and aims--not to mention sense of civics--of corporations and even government itself, Blumenthal's image, identifications, and also his accomplishments done by the employment of big government cannot help but be undermined.

(In reference to the previous comment by B. Rubenstein, there was a good article by Matt Bai in this past Sunday's N. Y. Times Magazine on how and why McMahon has gotten such a foothold in Connecticut.)
Bruce Rubenstein said… not a scrpt follower nor a hack or one who follows a playbook, in the regard I can scare those that want to do the same old thing the same old way.

I still believe the anger and activism of folks in the TPM and out of it isn't self defined as republican as much as it is libertarian in nature, with populist aspects.Very early on I anticipated the anger toward Washington and I had warned progressives in my party not to take the TPM and others lightly but the sentiment so far is to just write them off.If they had so chosen, te elected officials and political operatives could have met with the folks around the TPM and its fringe and possibly agreed on some populist positions,( certainly as to big corporations and some libertarian positions on cultural issues)which would have taken some of the "bite" and activism away,but the operatives rejected my arguments. I wonder how they are feeling now.
Don Pesci said…

I think you may be right. The animating ethos in the TPM is libertarian, with a strong populist flavor. Peter Schiff, whom I have called elsewhere the Cassandra of Connecticut politics, was close to the ideal of the TPM candidate. People on your side of the aisle thought they could safely ignore him because his message was so unhappy and the votes he was able to Marshall were few. But he was the very tip of a larger iceberg the base of which is Democratic and Republican discontents and Independents coming in from out of the cold. Whether Democrats could have swept any of these people into their arms with their current message is, I should think, doubtful. Chris Powell thinks that prairie populism is yet a live option, but someone will have to persuade me.
Bruce Rubenstein said…
Don...Prairie populism never caught on in Connecticut the first time and I highly doubt it would catch on here.William Jennings Bryan ( a great orator) and " the great commoner" was a member of my party and was the guiding force of that populism at the turn of the 20th century.Unfortuneately for Chris Powell the Republicans usually won the Presidential and Governor races.

Schiff's message was too dreary for folks to relate to in Connecticut.

I do think that the typical democratic officeholder was caught unaware of the discontent and to date havent dealt with it properly or reasonable.The discontent isnt over either party as it is over incumbancy and the power of centralized authority from DC...
Anonymous said…
I believe Blumenthal has proven he is a servant of the people. He hasn't worked in the private sector making millions, he's been serving the people of CT, saving us from the electric company increases and protecting consumers for years, and he'll do the same in Congress and to hand CT to a republican would be the worst thing we can do for this state. THINK people, remember what the GOP has done to the country, in Washington McMahon will do the same in following the insanity of the party of 'NO". In Blumenthal we have a proven leader of the CT consumer and in Washington he'll do the same, serve the people!!.
Anonymous said…
The only reason we have heard about the Tea Party so much is because network TV has a way of using the hype and the sensational instead of the facts. A check of facts would show some angry people in Delaware 4000 to be exact, do not constitute an entire state and the Tea party represents angry people voting with their emotions and not their brains. When the reality hits home and you really listen to this Tea party nonsense and their radical ideas, we have to just buck up and remember it took the GOP 10 years to ruin this country and Obama has only has 23 month to fix more then any president has had to cope with in decades. To hand the country, or this state back to the GOP, or especially the tea party would be insanity. Stop listening to net work TV and listen to MSNBC, or read some books, but don't believe the O'Donnell's or the Sharon Angles or the McMahon's.They are for the 2% wealthy, who have not produced a single job in 10 years and in fact have taken jobs and companies away, and not helped the middle class of America and I have no idea why the networks report as they do, perhaps media ownership deregulation is the cause?
Richard E. said…
interesting comments except for the . . . Blumie Lefty anonymous Plants . . . as a short reebut . . . CT pays the Highest electric rates in the Continental US and blummy lawsuits are partially to blame . . . Jobs? McMahon (ups & downs of a business owner) vs. Blumenthal (who still bows up proudly lawsuits create jobs) is just an overmatch . . .

and should win the election alone for Linda

moving fwd. The simple reason why the arguments against McMahon has not worked is that and I suspect you already know this . . . they mainly come from an underground organization Funded soley by Blumenthal wife kids and in laws called Moms against McMahon . . . . and a host of other attacks in "letters to the editor" disrupts at rally's phone calls to radio . . . as uncovered by the McMahon camp are PAID "plants" from this same organization . . . and the writings, voices are a verbatim template

anyway . . . what CT has discovered and it is clearly obvious to even both his supporters and non . . . is that Mr. Blumenthal is NOT a people person . . . never has been (cant change his spots). . . as AG he could always pick his arena and biased fanbase . . . now it appears to be a chore to deal with the "general" public . . .
and I beleive he is still running for "public" service . . . although poorly (as Ann Coulter who is not a fully converted fan of Linda McMahon comes out yesterday that she is lambasting Blumenthal . . .

Its become nervously clear that AGB needs a diversification on top of his punch drinkers . . . and sorry 'ol pal . . . just like you cannot bully the geek or ignore the wallflower in school 20 years ago and then ask for a job at his successful co. or the hottie for a date years later . . . and expect them and CT to forget

I hear hopefully the signal to start the death march . . .
Priscilla Dickman said…
I just received a call from the National AFL-CIO in DC concerning the CT. Senate race. As a union member for twenty eight years and a officer in a union for fifteen of those I get annoyed when the unions have this need to fill the members head with lies and statistics that are false. Any member who takes the time to research a little can make up their own minds on the facts and not be misled. As citizens of before they go to the voting booth they have an obligation to do just that for the good of this state, their families and the future of Connecticuts' economy. If they do not invest that little bit of time then it would be best if they did not go to the polls in November. These statements on these recorded lines to AFL-CIO members for example today mentioned that Linda McMahon only allows independent contractors and does not provide health insurance to her employees and thus that will mean she will be against fixing the health insurance debacle in this
country is a glaring example of what is wrong with these types of messages the AFL-CIO is sending out. I am hoping the members know enough to find out the truth for themselves before they pull that lever.
It seems folks often take more time to research what kind of car to buy than they do to research and dig out the truth about what a candidate stands for. This year they need to research all the candidates like they are buying a car.
Anonymous said…
Question for Linda McMahon: What is your connection to Lowell Weicker? (former US Senator for Ct & former CT Governor) i know he's on your board of directors at the WWE but I've heard it said that he's "the wind beneath your wings." is this true? Has he formally endorsed you? In not, why?
Anonymous said…
Question for Linda McMahon: What is your connection to Lowell Weicker? (former US Senator for Ct & former CT Governor) I know he's on your board of directors at the WWE but I've heard it said that he's "the wind beneath your wings." is this true? Has he formally endorsed you? In not, why?
Don Pesci said…

I’d be very surprised if you got a response from Mrs. McMahon here. As far as I know, Weicker has not formally endorsed anyone for the U.S. senate. He has said Mrs. McMahon would make a good senator and has been critical of Mr. Blumenthal:

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