After weeks of worries among Connecticut Democrats that their nominee for the state’s open Senate seat, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, was in danger of losing to Republican Linda McMahon, Murphy appears to be pulling away in the race.
A Wednesday poll by Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling found that Murphy leads McMahon by six percentage points, confirming a positive trend for Murphy that was suggested by the four-point lead reported last week in a University of Connecticut poll. And while McMahon has made overtures to women — whose lack of support for her was crucial in her 12-point loss to Senator Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 in 2010 — the PPP poll showed that her efforts have fallen short, with Murphy leading 54 to 35 percent among women.
At a Saturday campaign rally featuring Republican former Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell and Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, McMahon strongly dismissed the notion that she is “anti-women,” which she said was invented by the Murphy campaign.
“I’m a wife, I’m a mother, I’m a grandmother,” McMahon said at the rally, according to the Connecticut Mirror. “I’m a woman. Why on earth would I be against women?”
With negative campaigning in full swing — Murphy and McMahon have continued to trade barbs over their financial pasts — the PPP poll also reported a plurality of voters have a negative impression of both candidates.
Only 36 percent of voters said they had a favorable impression of Murphy, while 44 percent said they had an unfavorable impression of him. Murphy was better liked in July, when 38 percent of respondents reported a favorable impression of him and only 31 percent said they had an unfavorable impression.
Murphy’s worsening favorability numbers are no doubt due in part to an overwhelming number of negative advertisements by McMahon, who has poured millions of dollars of her own private wealth into the campaign, just as she did in 2010.
McMahon’s campaign has focused its critique of Murphy on a low mortgage rate the congressman received in 2008, when he was a member of the committee in the House of Representatives that regulates banks. That mortgage rate, in addition to Murphy’s refusal to release documents proving the legality of the loan, led to McMahon’s campaign manager Corry Bliss’ description of Murphy as a “corrupt career politician.”
After Murphy responded to the negative ads with some of his own, attacking McMahon for her failure to repay investors after a 1976 bankruptcy, McMahon said last week that she would repay investors 36 years later.
But it might not be enough put the Republican ahead in the polls.
“McMahon’s done a good job of hitting Murphy but she hasn’t done anything to prop herself up, and in a race between an unpopular Democratic candidate and an unpopular Republican candidate in a state like Connecticut, the Democrat is going to win,” according to a PPP statement accompanying the poll. “Murphy’s still not up by as much as you would expect a Democrat in Connecticut to be but he does look again like the clear favorite.”
McMahon’s image was hurt during the course of her 2010 campaign against Blumenthal, when she was criticized for the violent and sexualized programming of World Wrestling Entertainment, the wrestling entertainment company her husband Vince McMahon heads. Connecticut voters haven’t forgotten McMahon’s involvement in the company, with only 17 percent in the poll released Wednesday reporting a favorable impression of her WWE affiliation versus 51 percent who reported a negative opinion.
McMahon’s campaign released a statement Wednesday afternoon dismissing the poll results as politically biased.
“While all polls are just a snapshot in time, PPP’s newest findings in Connecticut’s U.S. Senate race must be noted for what they are: Democratic numbers from a Democratic polling firm,” the statement said. “In an effort to resurrect his failing campaign, Congressman Murphy’s Washington cronies have recently given him money, staffers and now brand new poll results.”
Connecticut’s Senate race could have national implications, with the race’s potential to swing the Senate’s majority from one party to another. That might help swing voters in Murphy’s direction — 50 percent of voters said they want Democrats to control the Senate, versus 38 percent who said they would prefer a Republican majority.
Murphy and McMahon will face each other in a series of four debates this fall, with the first debate scheduled for Oct. 7. McMahon, though, has refused to meet with editorial boards of Connecticut newspapers or respond to a survey that would show how she would vote on legislation Murphy has previously voted on, describing the survey as a “senseless exercise.”
If McMahon is elected in November, she will be Connecticut’s first female senator.