Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon has spent the bulk of her campaign attacking her Democratic opponent, Rep. Chris Murphy, through a flood of TV commercials and direct mail flyers that her fortune is able to pay for. Unfortunately, she has spent precious little of the campaign explaining her priorities, outside of repeating ad nauseam that she has a plan.
The problem for Mrs. McMahon is that most of the attacks are not terribly compelling. Rep. Murphy in the past missed some rent and mortgage payments, briefly facing foreclosure, but ultimately paid up. A bit sloppy certainly, but hardly scandalous.
We are supposed to believe the scandal involves his securing in July 2008, a little more than a year after the foreclosure lawsuit, a $43,000 home equity line of credit from Webster Bank. The McMahon campaign has called this a sweetheart deal, but the 4.99-percent rate Rep. Murphy received was well above the 3.99 percent rate that the bank's most creditworthy customers received at the time. Mrs. McMahon has offered no evidence of a quid pro quo, just innuendo.
Mrs. McMahon's campaign also hammered away at Rep. Murphy, while in Congress, of missing about 80 percent of subcommittee meetings and hearings. He could, and should, do better. Yet in debates and in meeting with The Day's editorial board, Rep. Murphy displayed a solid grasp of the issues. And he made about 97 percent of congressional votes.
Of more substance is Mrs. McMahon's criticism of Rep. Murphy for voting against a $604 billion 2013 defense appropriations bill that included $4.8 billion to continue producing the Virginia-class attack submarines at Electric Boat in Groton and prevent what could be a one-year drop in production from two boats to one in 2014. The bill also contained funding to continue development of an Ohio-class replacement submarine program.
Rep. Murphy said he cast his no votes in objection to open-ended funding for the Afghanistan War, a sentiment that probably many Connecticut voters share. But voting against a bill that contained such economically important defense programs for Connecticut was politically tone deaf. No other member of the Connecticut delegation voted that way.
Balanced against these negatives is the fact that Rep. Murphy, if elected to the Senate, will fight to retain and fully implement the Affordable Care Act and help fulfill its goal of assuring near universal health coverage for Americans. That is an objective this newspaper shares and is in stark contrast to Mrs. McMahon's plan to repeal the health care act, without offering any realistic replacement plan.
Rep. Murphy supports the president's proposal to let the Bush tax cuts expire for couples making $250,000 and more, while retaining the lower rates for the middle class. Mrs. McMahon seeks to keep the tax cuts in place and even expand them, an approach that would balloon the nation's deficit unless there were massive cuts in domestic spending, but the Republican candidate won't talk about specific cuts.
Mrs. McMahon claims that her six-point plan would save the average Connecticut family $500 a month, but most of the so-called "savings" are based on maintaining the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, something both Democrats and Republicans agree on. In reality there is little relief for middle-class families, but instead big tax reductions for the wealthy.
Rep. Murphy's candidacy has not thrilled us. He was guilty of launching his own false attacks by contending Mrs. McMahon talked of "sun setting" Social Security. In truth she was talking in the abstract of assessing federal spending programs every so often for effectiveness, and letting the ineffective expire.
Rep. Murphy's criticism of free trade agreements and his "buy American" platform at times borders on protectionism, an outdated approach that if taken too far could invite trade wars that would damage the world economy and close important markets to United States industries.
Either of these candidates, if elected, will have a way to go to match the statesmanship of the man they will replace, retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman. On balance, however, Rep. Murphy is by far the better and more informed candidate. The Day endorses Rep. Chris Murphy for U.S. Senate.