GOP voters should pick experience over rhetoric

There is much about Linda McMahon's insurgent candidacy to attract Republican voter support in the Aug. 10 primary. Ms. McMahon and her husband, Vince, recovered from bankruptcy to build a spectacularly successful business - World Wrestling Entertainment, based here in Connecticut.

The success of the individual in the free enterprise system, not through the help of the government but through hard work and the pursuit of an enterprise with a market to support it, is what the Republican Party is all about. In interviews we found Ms. McMahon to be a bright, articulate candidate not easily moved from her talking points.

With no prior service in public office and no long-term goals of electoral glory, she is the definitive political outsider at a time when the political outsider is, ironically, a hot political commodity. Ms. McMahon vows to shake up Washington and cut government spending, themes certainly popular with many voters.

Her willingness to spend her own fortune, up to $50 million, she says, would make her a formidable challenger to the Democratic nominee, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. Her early performance shows she will not flinch from launching tough attacks and, if anything, may go too far.

Yet there is also much to concern GOP voters about her candidacy. Ms. McMahon made her riches through an exploitative and often degrading form of entertainment with links to steroid use. WWE glorifies violence and bullying. It has treated women as objects and people with disabilities as victims, not equals. Ms. McMahon says WWE has cleaned up its act to "PG" status. Still, the nature of her business background will turn off many voters.

And while Ms. McMahon's anti-big-government rhetoric is attractive at a bumper-sticker level, a closer examination finds little of substance and no clear policy agenda.

That leaves the money, which we do not find adequate reason to endorse a candidate to serve as a U.S. senator.

Petitioning his way onto the GOP ballot was businessman and author Peter Schiff. He has neither the political experience nor the financial resources for a strong campaign. His fiscal conservative views border on the extreme and may not appeal to a broad electorate if he were the nominee.

Our choice is made easier by former congressman Rob Simmons' decision to re-enter the primary contest. Without the financial resources to compete for weeks with Ms. McMahon, Mr. Simmons suspended his campaigning after losing a tough nominating contest at the state Republican convention in May. He is now back for a sprint to the finish. The odds he faces are long, but the prospects exciting. If successful, he could access significant financial backing in the general election.

In terms of experience, there is no comparison. As a congressman, Mr. Simmons played an important role in reversing a Pentagon decision to close the Naval Submarine Base in Groton. After losing the 2006 election, Mr. Simmons became the state's business advocate. In that position he got high marks from businessmen for helping cut through government red tape. He also received an education on the challenges small businesses face in the struggle to grow and create jobs.

A former CIA officer, colonel in the U.S. Army and Vietnam veteran, Mr. Simmons has an impressive grasp of both foreign policy and domestic issues. He has realistic ideas about the tough choices necessary to trim the growth in federal entitlement programs - Medicare and Social Security - including raising age eligibilities, considering income requirements and utilizing optional tax credits as an alternative to direct payments.

We also have an admittedly parochial reason for supporting Mr. Simmons: He lives in Stonington and therefore would be less likely to ignore eastern Connecticut, as has been the case with so many state leaders.

True, this newspaper did not endorse Mr. Simmons in 2006. At that time we parted ways over an Iraq invasion that Mr. Simmons supported and we still consider a major mistake.

But in this primary race, at this time, The Day endorses Rob Simmons as the best Republican candidate to oppose Mr. Blumenthal in the Nov. 2 election.

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