McMahon is hapless, Murphy overplays

In the third debate of Connecticut's U.S. Senate candidates, held Monday night in New London, Democrat Chris Murphy again ran circles around Republican Linda McMahon.

Murphy repeatedly zinged McMahon for her great wealth, scoring most by noting that McMahon's wrestling exhibition company laid off workers while taking state tax breaks and paying McMahon herself tens of millions of dollars in salary. Murphy assailed McMahon for supporting legislation allowing employers to exclude contraception from medical insurance, for not supporting abortion enough, and - a canard that is becoming more tiresome than McMahon's many canards about Murphy - for proposing to "sunset" Social Security.

McMahon seemed almost dazed by it all, at one point refusing to answer a "social issues" question and defaulting pathetically to the need for job creation. Her answers were muddled, sometimes calling for more spending and less spending in the same sentence, and heavy on tautologies and platitudes, duller still for her omitting the attacks on Murphy's personal finances that constituted most of her screechy performance in their previous debate.

The McMahon campaign's packing the hall with supporters to cheer her and mock Murphy backfired when their interruptions disrupted the debate's timing and caused the television broadcast to end in the middle of McMahon's closing statement.

It is painfully apparent now why McMahon's campaign has kept her away from interviews and agreed to so few debates. McMahon may be ready for prime time in wrestling exhibitions but not in any performance requiring thinking on one's feet. Without a script and a protected setting, McMahon is lost. She is not presentable. All her commercials and mailings can't hide it anymore.

But Murphy began to overdo it Monday night. He railed against the rich to the point of class war, as if, as McMahon tried to note, liquidating the rich would buy the schizophrenic and pandered-to electorate more than a few weeks in which to figure things out, and as if nearly everyone who is not rich does not aspire to become so, if only by playing the lottery.

Connecticut is not inclined to outlaw abortion but Monday night Murphy spoke as if the people are demanding all abortion all the time, as if they see it as a universal and absolute good. McMahon's nuanced position on abortion - in favor of the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision but against making it a test for court nominees, in favor of parental notification of abortions for minors and against partial-birth abortion - is almost certainly the majority position in Connecticut if not in the country as well.

The problem is that McMahon is not capable of articulating all this under the pressure of a debate and that, in her dash to become the Republican In Name Only her supporters called her challenger for the party's nomination, she doesn't dare to anyway. Republican positions do require some persuasion in Connecticut - even non-liberal positions require some persuasion here when communicated through the political correctness of the state's news media - but until someone tries the state will be without political competition.

Seemingly liberated by McMahon's incompetence Monday night, Murphy smugly ran rampant on the hard left side of everything as if most voters in Connecticut are recovering drunks and drug addicts needing shelter in the supportive housing he proudly claimed to have facilitated. Murphy is not much more talented politically than McMahon if he doesn't realize that he always had those votes and that they are not the ones he still needs to get.

To bring Murphy back to reality, someone at the final debate of the candidates, to be held Thursday in Hartford, should ask him when and where his vaunted "Buy American Caucus" last met. That may be the end of that meaningless talking point.

As for McMahon, if the answer being sought isn't her "six-point jobs plan," there's no point in asking her anything.


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