If the U.S. Senate election in Connecticut were a trade industry award for the slickest and most eye-catching set of campaign commercials, Linda McMahon would win in a landslide.
But the bad news for her, and the good news for what remains of American democracy, is that they will be counting actual votes at the ballot box three weeks from Tuesday night. As of today, McMahon has no more chance to prevail there than her husband Vince’s XFL football league had to take over television sports in 2001. Then, as now, the only thing the McMahons bring to the table is opening night buzz. In this case, opening night was the Republican primary.
Linda is almost finished spending tens of millions of dollars of an ill-gotten fortune hijacking what shapes up as the booby prize: an energetic candidacy good for second place and a legacy of distracting her minority party from the serious business of arguing an alternative vision of how to dig the state and the country out of their terrible hole.
(By the way, one of the interesting questions in the months to come will be the final tally on the over/under of $50 million of “self-funding.” My guess is that it will add up to a bit less than $50 million.)
Today I watched McMahon and Richard Blumenthal on ABC News’ This Week. Though advertised as another debate, the package was not mano a mano – just more of the same tripe the national media have been presenting from Connecticut for months. Christiane Amanpour’s questions and approach were dated; there was nothing on World Wrestling Entertainment deaths or McMahon’s gaffe on the minimum wage. Anyway, I suspect that at this point these forums are more for the obsessed politico class than for voters, who saw all they needed at last Monday night’s debate from the Bushnell in Hartford.
McMahon has built her case around relentless ridicule of Blumenthal. It’s cute. It’s funny. But it won’t work any more than cracking wise about George W. Bush’s supposed stupidity worked for liberals in two presidential elections. If voters are expected to believe Blumenthal is a total dunce whose every utterance and position in 20 years as their state attorney general was a loud and calculated lie, then what exactly is this sleazy wrestling promoter trying to sell to them about themselves? She herself had a heavily lawyered 1976 business bankruptcy that stiffed Connecticut creditors out of a million bucks, yet she seeks now to portray herself as a former welfare mom.
McMahon’s sliver of a positive message is job creation. It’s all air – a story of self-enrichment, admirable and even remarkable for its persistence and drive, but devoid of larger economic or social meaning. World Wrestling Entertainment grew from a private corporation to a publicly traded entity (with controlling Class A shares still closely held by the founding family) with a billion-dollar market cap.
From all that, the McMahons built an office tower and employ around 600 people. But manufacturing of their licensed merchandise is outsourced, and the people doing the heavy lifting, literally, in front of TV cameras are “independent contractors” who drop dead much earlier than they should, because giving them regular employee benefits and regulating their occupational health and safety wouldn’t sufficiently “incentivize” this “small business.”
For the electoral ambitions of this faux titan of industry, the gig was up when she couldn’t give a good answer to questions about the minimum wage and then tried to propagandize her way out of her bad answers.
We have three more weeks of mudslinging in front of us; perhaps even another CLIO Award-worthy moment or two. But not 50 percent plus one vote for Linda McMahon on November 2.