After a recent poll found that Senate candidate Linda McMahon leads Democratic challenger Chris Murphy in the race for Connecticut’s Senate seat, Murphy threatened to turn the tables on the race with an aggressive debate performance Sunday morning — the first of four in the election season.
In one of the nation’s most competitive Senate races, the two candidates have been neck and neck since August’s primaries. On Friday, Quinnipiac University released a poll that placed McMahon slightly ahead of Murphy. McMahon boasted the support of 48 percent of polled voters compared to Murphy’s 47 percent.
The poll also showed a decline in enthusiasm among Murphy voters, with 27 percent of Murphy supporters describing themselves as “very enthusiastic” and 55 percent calling themselves “somewhat enthusiastic.” For McMahon, the numbers are reversed, with 50 percent “very enthusiastic” and 39 percent “somewhat enthusiastic.”
For the first time, more Connecticut voters have a negative opinion of Murphy than a positive one, although opinions about McMahon remain favorable overall. McMahon has a 45–41 percent favorability spread with Connecticut voters, while Murphy suffered from a 36–40 negative approval rating.
“McMahon has done a good job defining Murphy, who was not well-known statewide, in a negative way,” said Douglas Schwartz, director of the Quinnipiac University poll.
McMahon has captured the majority of male voters, the wealthy and those without college degrees, while Murphy is in the lead among females, those with incomes of $100,000 or less and voters that have received a college degree. McMahon has also retained her lead among Connecticut voters unaffiliated with a major political party.
The two candidates faced off Sunday morning in their first televised debate on issues ranging from their economic plans to their support for women’s healthcare. In her opening remarks, McMahon warned that, if elected, Murphy would push the Connecticut economy “off a fiscal cliff” and that she “has no plan” for fixing the state economy.
Murphy responded to McMahon’s attack with allegations that the economic plan she does have is plagiarized.
“Linda does have a plan on her website, but as we’ve recently learned, a good part of that is just lifted word for word, paragraph by paragraph from right-wing Republican sites in Washington,” Murphy said. “It’s not a plan for Connecticut — it’s a plan that essentially parrots a bunch of talking points that haven’t worked for this country.”
In a press release Sunday afternoon, McMahon’s campaign fought back against Murphy’s allegations, citing an article written by Kevin Rennie of Daily Ructions that said “the footnotes were there all along” under the plan published on her website. They blasted Murphy for his accusations, writing in the press release that “a fellow from a privileged background … could not have contrived to miss every class that touched on what a footnote is and where you find them.” But Rennie never claimed the economic plan was actually written by McMahon.
The candidates also clashed on air over their views on women’s healthcare. Murphy voiced his disagreement with McMahon over her support of the Blunt Amendment, which if passed would allow Connecticut employers to refuse to cover contraception for their female employees. Murphy pointed out that this amendment would not just apply to employers with a specific religious affiliation, but to secular employers as well.
But McMahon disputed Murphy’s claim.
“It’s a myth to think I would be against women’s health issues,” McMahon said during the debate, reminding viewers that she is “a woman.”
She said she only supported the Blunt Amendment because she is not in favor of “government overreach” because “part of what’s wrong in Washington today is that our government is too big.”
The candidates are fighting for the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by Joe Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67.