Defining moment

While Linda McMahon, the convention endorsed candidate certainly doesn't like it, Republican voters should welcome the opportunity to choose between Ms. McMahon and challenger Chris Shays in the Aug. 14 primary.

After their candidate handily won the convention endorsement last Friday, Ms. McMahon's supporters made it clear they wanted to go directly to the general election, chanting "No Primary!" Ms. McMahon made that appeal when appearing on WFSB-TV's "Face the State" a couple of days later.

"I would really hope that (former) Congressman Shays would really look at and consider that statement (by the convention) and understand how more effective it would be if we were a unified party moving forward to take on Congressman Murphy," said Ms. McMahon. (U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy won the Democratic Party convention and faces former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz in a primary Aug. 14. I guess we know who McMahon expects to win.)

As for Mr. Shays, he wasn't buying it, filing his primary papers the day after Ms. McMahon's TV appearance.

Rather than weaken the party's chances in the general election, the survivor of this Republican primary should emerge a stronger candidate. Both will have the chance to refute the caricature each has tried to make of the other and in the process better define themselves for the voters.

Ms. McMahon contends that Mr. Shays' congressional persona as a moderate is out of step with current party thinking. In other words, he acted as a RINO (Republican in name only), willing to support tax hikes and earmarks.

Mr. Shays, meanwhile, seeks to paint the endorsed candidate as a politically inexperienced lightweight, with no more than a bumper-sticker grasp of the issues. At every opportunity he points to her loss in the Senate race two years ago to Democrat Richard Blumenthal, arguing that she will be a weak general election candidate.

The primary candidate who most effectively counters such attacks - Ms. McMahon by coming up with a series of substantive issue positions and making the case she can win; Mr. Shays by defending his fiscal conservative bona fides and turning his record of bipartisanship into a positive - should prevail.

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