Murphy struggles to keep McMahon at bay

A new Quinnipiac poll shows that Democratic candidate Chris Murphy is in a dead heat with Republican candidate Linda McMahon.
A new Quinnipiac poll shows that Democratic candidate Chris Murphy is in a dead heat with Republican candidate Linda McMahon. Photo by Benjamin Ackerman.

Facing an onslaught of negative attacks funded by Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Linda McMahon, Democratic nominee and U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy is struggling to regain the lead in the polls.

After a poll in late August gave McMahon a three-point lead ahead of Murphy in the election for the Senate seat vacated by Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67, Democrats have fought to regain the edge in a state that rarely sends Republicans to Washington, D.C. But McMahon’s campaign, which is expected to outraise Murphy’s by a significant margin, has used her cash advantage to swamp local airwaves with advertisements questioning Murphy’s financial past.

McMahon has relentlessly criticized Murphy for receiving a below-market mortgage from Webster Bank in the summer of 2008 amid a failing mortgage market and only one year after facing foreclosure on his house. While Webster has released data showing that Murphy’s rate was not low relative to other loans it offered at the time, McMahon has criticized Murphy’s refusal to release financial statements. Murphy, who had previously represented Webster Bank as a private lawyer, has denied all allegations of wrongdoing.

“By refusing to answer basic questions about the details of his special home loan deal, it is clear that Congressman Chris ‘Dodd 2.0’ Murphy is in full cover-up mode,” McMahon campaign manager Corry Bliss said in a Sunday press statement, likening Murphy to former Senator Chris Dodd, whose seat Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 won in a bitter 2010 race against McMahon. “The questions about how Chris Murphy obtained a special loan deal will remain at the forefront of this U.S. Senate campaign as long as the ethically challenged congressman arrogantly refuses to answer the many serious questions that have been raised by his conduct.”

McMahon’s latest round of advertisements suggests Murphy’s position on the bank-regulating House Financial Services Committee could have played a role in his low mortgage. In response, Murphy has criticized McMahon for failing to repay investors after a 1976 bankruptcy, an attack that has largely been drowned out by the sheer volume of McMahon’s advertising.

Murphy compared his situation to that of Blumenthal, who managed to defeat McMahon in 2010 despite being outspent by an 8-to-1 margin. But Blumenthal — who served as Connecticut’s attorney general for 20 years before his Senate campaign — was much better known across the state and never trailed McMahon in the polls in the lead-up to Election Day.

Murphy has said that he will make up for the large fundraising gap with a larger volunteer base and greater voter enthusiasm. Winning by a large margin in Hartford and New Haven, which typically vote heavily Democratic, is essential for Murphy to claim victory this November.

Among those working to ensure this victory are the Yale College Democrats, who canvassed for Murphy across the state and within New Haven this weekend, contacting over 1,000 voters over two days.

“This race is going to be about turnout, and that’s exactly what we’re focused on,” Yale Dems President Zak Newman ’13 said. “Conversations with voters and community advocacy made Democrats successful in 2010 and we can do it again.”

But after a poll gave President Barack Obama a seven-point lead over GOP challenger Mitt Romney in Connecticut, down from his 22-point victory ahead of Sen. John McCain in 2008, some Democrats worry that these numbers indicate a drop in enthusiasm that could weaken Murphy’s chances this November.

Murphy and McMahon will face off in a series of four debates this fall, the first of which will be hosted on Oct. 7 by local television channel WFSB-TV 3.

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