It was not supposed to be difficult for Congressman Chris Murphy (D-CT) to beat former WWE executive Linda McMahon in the race for retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman’s seat. After all, Connecticut is a deep blue state with a congressional delegation whose members are all liberal Democrats. Murphy fits right in with Obama, Pelosi, DeLauro, Blumenthal, as well as his former boss, retired Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT). No extra cash was going to be needed to beat McMahon, even though she has already spent $15 million of her own money to get her campaign message across. After all, everyone in Connecticut votes for the candidates with the “D” or “WFP” (Working Families Party) after their names, right?
The Connecticut Senate race, it seems, has turned out to be a real nail-biter for Murphy and his Democratic colleagues, as control of the Senate hangs in the balance. Given this kind of pressure, national Democrats have to divert cash from other states, like New Mexico, to give Murphy the boost that was not supposed to be necessary. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is delivering $320,000 to the Murphy campaign for television advertising to quash McMahon’s recent surge. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found McMahon ahead of Murphy, 49%-46%.
Regarding Murphy’s situation, political scientist Larry Sabato, of the University of Virginia, said, “The party is undertaking a rescue operation, that’s what this is. Once you get on the defensive, it’s really hard to reverse that. He needs outside help- he can’t do this without it.”
McMahon’s timing could not be more perfect. Her campaign is capitalizing on the fact that Murphy is relatively unknown outside of his own congressional district, a different situation than McMahon faced during her first Senate race in 2010 against the state’s long-time attorney general, now Sen. Richard Blumenthal. In addition, Murphy’s recent mortgage controversy and self-admitted irresponsibility in his personal financial affairs have the potential to leave a bad taste in the mouths of voters who currently don’t know him well.
However, Murphy’s campaign has sounded the alarm and Democrats are responding in the state. A “regiment” of 250 liberal Democrats showed up in New Haven on Sunday to help strategize for Murphy, who has also just switched media consultants. So anxious are the Democrats that even the “big guns” showed up to rally the troops.
“Make no mistake: Connecticut is now truly a battleground state,” said Sen. Blumenthal. “We are going to have to work hard and as long as possible to elect Chris Murphy.” For Blumenthal and his colleagues, it seems that “working hard” means portraying McMahon as a wealthy, selfish, former wrestling executive who supported the treatment of women as sex objects.
To those who gathered to support him, Murphy inadvertently gave a great endorsement of the strength of Tea Party conservatives. “Here we are again at the center of a fight for the United States Senate,” he said. “I have lived with the Tea Party for the last two years in the House. Even if President Obama gets elected, if we don’t hold onto the U.S. Senate, then they get everything they want.”
McMahon’s aggressive campaign, and Murphy’s lack of preparedness for it, has forced Democrats into a position in which they must spend their resources in an unexpected place. Congressman John Larson (D-CT) said that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) assured him that Murphy would have the funds needed to win the race in Connecticut.
The New York Times has now moved the Connecticut Senate seat on its map from one that is a safe Democratic seat to one that leans Democratic.