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Bysiewicz would have done better if she stayed home

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published July 31. 2012 4:00AM   Updated July 31. 2012 10:42AM

It turns out voters don't really care who they elect secretary of the state.

I came to that conclusion about midway through Monday night's debate between the two Democrats still competing for Joe Lieberman's soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy and former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz.

I myself voted in a lot of elections in which Bysiewicz was on the ballot. She served as secretary of the state for a very long time, from 1999 to 2011.

She is almost as much a fixture of statewide Democratic politics as Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

So how did I never notice that she is completely lacking in any of the usual political charms.

OK, maybe this was more obvious Monday night, because Murphy, in comparison, was practically oozing charm, starting with an opening joke about how his wife was in the audience, about the best he can do these days for a date night.

The only time I saw Bysiewicz smile all night, it looked forced. It actually seemed like she might even have been in a bit of pain in doing it.

Bysiewicz is Exhibit A for my new theory that no one cares about who wins the job of secretary of the state. How else did she win so often?

Most people know the job has something to do with supervising elections and registering corporations, but nothing to do with raising or lowering taxes, abortion or Social Security.

Really, when was the last time anyone paid much attention to a debate of secretary of the state candidates?

And how many successful politicians are there who don't know how to smile?

The big loser Monday night was not Susan Bysiewicz. After all, she's been written off by the state's Democratic political establishment for a long time.

In fact, her Senate candidacy was dead on arrival.

Her political fate in the state was sealed when the state Supreme Court ruled back in 2010 she wasn't qualified to run for attorney general because she misread the rule about practicing law.

She even admitted in a deposition she hadn't been in a courtroom since studying law at Duke.

No, the big loser Monday was Republican Senate hopeful Linda McMahon, who must have had to wince at Murphy's skilled takedown of his opponent.

I wondered if McMahon was home in Greenwich watching on TV. After all, the McMahon house must have TVs all over.

If Linda McMahon was afraid to debate her Republican opponent in the race more than twice, she must be scheming already how to avoid Murphy all together.

Maybe she will just skip debates for the general election, the same way she has learned she can just dodge the press and editorial boards and still pull ahead in the polls.

Just keep saturating the airwaves. That's how a master of TV programming runs for office.

Murphy began calling out McMahon from the start of Monday's debate, signaling he too has moved on from winning the primary to running against his likely opponent in the fall.

If McMahon does agree to debate him, he won't find as unskilled and charmless an opponent as he did Monday.

McMahon likes to smile.

And when she does you get a little glimpse of what it might be like to be really rich, maybe even to have enough money to buy a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Murphy may not even be able to beat McMahon on the charm scale.

But he did prove Monday that he can wield a mighty rhetorical stick, too, something I haven't seen from McMahon.

He answers debate questions simply and directly and at the same time weaves in a powerful vision of the office he's running for, talking about education, creating better jobs, leveling the playing field for the middle class.

He's been in the game long enough to get good at it but not long enough to be labeled the dreaded career Washington politician.

Linda McMahon is going to have a much harder time ignoring this opponent.

This is the opinion of David Collins

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