By GAIL COLLINS
New York Times News Service
WATERBURY, Conn. — “I got into the race after looking at the faces of my six little grandchildren,” said Linda McMahon.
She is the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut, and, over the last three years, she has spent more than $77 million attempting to get elected. When the grandchildren are grown into the heirs to the McMahon family fortune, do you think they’ll regard that as a good choice?
Linda McMahon is famous for two things: spending piles and piles of money on Senate campaigns and being a mogul in the world of professional wrestling. She and her husband, Vince, built the empire of sleeper holds and body slams that is known as World Wrestling Entertainment.
“She has shown through her entire career that she doesn’t care if it’s a Republican idea, a Democratic idea or an independent idea,” said Gov. Chris Christie, the celebrity guest at a series of rallies this week. Actually, there wasn’t much political branding in the WWE. During Linda’s tenure, it tended to be more about people getting hit on the head with folding chairs and women in their underwear wrestling in mud or pudding.
One unassailable achievement of the Linda McMahon political career has been its effect on the WWE, which has gone PG. Now it’s all about being the best you can be. Chair-bashing is banned, and the wrestlers are crusading against breast cancer. Videos of the old days — the simulated necrophilia, Vince’s ordering a woman to get down on her knees and bark like a dog — have been scrubbed off the Web.
Her Waterbury rally, in the city’s decrepit downtown, was a rather rare public speaking event.
While waiting around for McMahon and Christie, people had leisure to examine the newest Hall of Fame inductees, which include Derek Anthony Poundstone, a local gym owner and strongman. (“While having a body like a rhinoceros is important, the key to Poundstone’s success is the strength of his mind.”)
A plaque for former Gov. John Rowland proudly notes that Rowland likes to say “I’m from Waterbury, Connecticut, the Center of the Universe.” It does not mention that Rowland finished his last term in federal prison.
But about McMahon: You have to give her credit for determination. She ran for Senate in 2010, losing by 12 points after spending $50 million. This time, her opponent is Rep. Chris Murphy, and her tab is $27 million and counting.
When the rally finally began, the crowd roared appreciatively when Christie called Murphy “a butler for Nancy Pelosi.” The candidate herself was less colorful.
“I have a plan. He doesn’t,” she said of her opponent.
McMahon’s answer to virtually every question is her six-point plan for job creation, which calls for middle-class tax cuts and less regulation.
It’s pretty much all she’s got. Pressed for a position on entitlements by The Hartford Courant’s editorial board, McMahon responded: “Here’s what I’m going to say on this issue today. In terms of reforming and revising Social Security and Medicare, I really will not talk about specifics until we’re in a bipartisan way in Congress.”
McMahon went hard and negative early, with ads that harped on Murphy’s sloppy financial history: He was sued for nonpayment of rent in 2003 and faced a foreclosure in 2007 for missing mortgage payments.
The congressman said he had failed to pay attention to financial details at a time when he was busy with his political career.
The ads seemed to work, until Murphy went on the attack himself. McMahon may have a plan, but she did not seem to do everything possible in the way of planning. If you are an incredibly rich candidate who wants to brag about how you once pulled yourself back from bankruptcy, try to make sure that you repaid your old creditors.
Also, if you are going to attack your opponent for failure to pay his rent, make sure you weren’t delinquent on your property taxes. Also, if you have any family boats christened Sexy Bitch, try to think of another name.
Recent surveys show McMahon slipping. And voters, by huge margins, have told pollsters that they really hate this race.