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Linda McMahon's Quixotic Lingering in the Connecticut Senate Arena

Rumor has it that defeated GOP Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon wants to try her hand again in 2012. But old exit polls show that if she couldn't gain traction in 2010, she's almost certainly toast in a three-way race that includes Joe Lieberman.

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Linda McMahon at a 2010 Connecticut Senate debate (Abigal Pheiffer / Getty Images-pool)

Like a defeated wrestler eager to get back in the ring, Linda McMahon, it appears, isn't done with politics.

Despite losing to Democrat Richard Blumenthal by some 12 percentage points in the 2010 Connecticut Senate race, the businesswoman is planning to meet with Sen. John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Roll Call's Steve Peoples reports. “I don’t know what her message is going to be, but I sort of suspect she isn’t finished,” Cornyn told Roll Call. And as our friends at the Daily Beast reported last week, she's still running ads, too.

A second McMahon candidacy would be attractive to Connecticut Republicans for the same reasons the first one was: her independent wealth, acquired as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, makes her financially self-sufficient. But it would be unattractive for some pretty obvious ones. As The Weekly Standard's John McCormack asks, "If she couldn't get close in a year when Republicans were more energized than Democrats, how will she win in a year when Obama's at the top of the ticket?"

He's skeptical, but suggests an answer: "40% may be good enough to win in a three-way race with a Democrat and Lieberman (assuming he runs—and runs as an independent)." He might add: against a candidate who was shown to have lied or misled about his Vietnam record, and who was more susceptible to the perilous charge of being a career politician than any other non-incumbent.

But McCormack's intuition runs counter to the actual numbers: Lieberman's presence would actually make it even harder for a Republican to win the seat in 2012. Take a look at exit polls from the 2006 Senate election, in which Lieberman ran as an independent. He had been defeated in the Democratic primary by antiwar candidate Ned Lamont, but he beat Lamont in the general election, garnering about half the vote to Lamont's 40 percent. Republican candidate Alan Schlesinger took less than 10 percent. McCormack assumes that Democrats would be split between Lieberman and a party candidate, but in 2006 Democrats overwhelmingly voted for Lamont, while Republicans overwhelmingly voted for Lieberman, not Lamont. See this Fox News exit poll or this MSNBC exit poll.

And it's hard to imagine many Democrats will be more fond of Lieberman in 2012 than they were in 2006. Even with the war in Iraq fading as an issue, Lieberman has become the bane of Democrats, derailing or watering down their policies from the center repeatedly—most prominently on health-care reform. In effect, his base is now Republican voters. And while his loud advocacy for the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" might very well alienate some of them, it's unlikely to make scorned Democrats forget his votes on other issues.

Cornyn's smart enough not to turn down a meeting with a Republican with a fat pocketbook. But he's likely to be looking elsewhere when it comes to lining up a candidate in the Nutmeg State. Is Rob Simmons still free?

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