After the debate at UConn between Republican contenders for the U.S. Senate Chris Shays and Linda McMahon, Mr. Shays, who mounted the stage favored by Connecticut’s left of center media, temporarily lost a few votes within the journalistic community.
David Collins of the Day in New London wrote:
“McMahon did so much better in Thursday's debate that it makes you wonder why she isn't the one calling for more debates in the primary campaign, not Shays…Mr. Shays’testiness began, Mr. Collins noted, with a microphone malfunction.
“Shays looked every bit as testy, annoyed and frustrated at the end as when the debate started…”
“Shays on Thursday just seemed kind of mean-spirited.”
“In fact, Shays threw a bit of a tantrum at the outset when there was a problem with the auditorium sound system at the University of Connecticut.It may not be the case that Mr. Shays’ testiness arose from annoyance at the thought that “someone who peddled TV trash would take a Senate seat he considers his due.” Mr. Shays does not strike most people who know him well as the prototypical arrogant politician. In politics, however, appearances are perceived as reality. More likely, the former U.S. Representative wished to communicate his personal distaste with the raunch exhibited at some past World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) events. This distaste may have appeared as arrogance to some in the audience. Perhaps Mr. Shays could use a new debate coach.
“He snapped a terse ‘no’ when offered a handheld microphone, saying everyone should just wait until the wireless microphones were fixed. Everyone did wait.
“Then, once the debate was under way, the former congressman turned irritable again every time McMahon ducked one of his insults about her tenure as head of World Wrestling Entertainment, as if she were somehow approaching him with a WWE handheld microphone.”
The first rule of debate is this: When the audience has come to see a public debate, you’d best give then a debate rather than a public thrashing.
At the Hartford Courant, Rick Green scored the debate a win for Mrs. McMahon:
“But the lasting image of Linda McMahon is a candidate who stuck to her talking points and who brought the discussion back to the economy whenever Shays went nuclear. Because of that, she didn’t lose. For a candidate with a big lead, that’s all that matters. And with only one more debate scheduled, she’s more than half way to the nomination.”The Shays camp is making fatal errors based on a few misleading theories.
The notion that Mrs. McMahon can buy elections with her personal fortune was put to flight during her last run for the U.S. Senate in a contest with then Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who won U.S. Senator Chris Dodd’s vacant seat after Mrs. McMahon spent an inordinate amount of money -- $50 million in round numbers – attempting to defeat him. You cannot plausibly argue that Mrs. McMahon can buy a U.S Senate seat with money alone in the face of such a rout without appearing to be the much derided “used car salesman” of ancient memory.
It is not true that Mr. Shays can prevail over Mrs. McMahon by harnessing WWE thunderbolts deployed effectively by Mr. Blumenthal in his campaign. Every campaign is different and, whatever virtues he may possess, Mr. Shays is no Mr. Blumenthal. Neither is U.S. Representative Chris Murphy, the likely Democratic candidate for U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman’s soon to be vacant seat, Mr. Blumenthal. When you change the characterization in a play, you end up with a different narrative. Even Mrs. McMahon is not the same performer she was in her earlier campaign, and the differences were noticed in her most recent debate by commentators fully prepared to support Mr. Shays.
Some commentators remarked that Mrs. McMahon during her debate was well “scripted,” a devil word usually employed by opponents to suggest that there is no “there” there. But the absence of a “there” was not at all apparent during the UConn debate.
Mr. Shays, content to hurl flaccid thunderbolts, did not confront Mrs. McMahon on her program – which is detailed and thoroughly assimilated. Mrs. McMahon is not simply saying her lines trippingly on the tongue. Her program is an authentic reflection of her own passionately held views. And Mrs. McMahon is not the wooden, empty headed WWE bugaboo displayed in scores of reports written by left of center progressively inclined commentators whose dearest wish is that Mr. Murphy will not make the same mistakes made by Mr. Shays in his UConn debate with Mrs. McMahon.