McMahon wrestles with her Senate run strategy

Linda McMahon, former President of the Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment, is running for the Republican candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Chris Dodd.
Linda McMahon, former President of the Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment, is running for the Republican candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Chris Dodd.

"Shock and Awe" is what the Bush administration called the invasion of Iraq. Here in Connecticut, one could give the same moniker to the upstart Senate campaign of the Queen of all things spandex, sequined and steroidal. I'm referring to Ms. Linda McMahon, former President of the Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment. That's right. Hulk Hogan, André the Giant, Wrestlemania. That WWE.

So far, the campaign run by Ms. McMahon - or Linda, as her ads refer to her - has been a kind of stimulus program for the Connecticut media. The efficiency of her effort is striking. The day she announced her campaign, direct-mail pieces hit journalists' boxes like laser-guided bombs. TV ads and Internet placements came next, as Linda crisscrossed the squared circle of the most vicious of all "wrestling" venues, politics.

I applaud a woman with the resources of Linda to jump into the GOP nomination fight. Unlike others I do not believe one needs to begin at the "local" level and work their way up. Never quite understood that concept. I certainly don't hear it when a Bush or Kennedy decides to start electoral politics somewhere above first selectman. "Experience" in politics is overrated, experience in running for office, now that's a leotard of a different color.

I have managed and had significant roles in many campaigns, all uphill fights. The current strategy of Linda's campaign, much like the Bush "strateegery" for Iraq, is to overwhelm your opponents with air power and then clean up with a strong paid ground force. It is the wrong strategy and will only fill consultants' bank accounts with money instead of ballot boxes with Linda votes.

If Linda truly hopes to hoist the glittering, bejeweled belt of Senate champion, her climb will be steep. First, she needs to gain 15 percent of the delegates at the GOP convention to qualify for the September primary. Then she'll need to impress the primary voters. Connecticut has closed primaries, so only registered Republicans may vote. Two of Linda's opponents, former congressman Rob Simmons and State Senator Sam Caligiuri, Republican insiders both, have already identified these "prime voters" and are busy securing convention delegates.

Linda proclaims that her campaign is about something different, a new type of politics. Really? One of the reasons Sen. Dodd is in trouble is a lack of candor. In short, he has lied. The senator has used the Bill Clinton attitude of "it depends on what your definition of is, is" when it comes to answering questions about his finances. If Linda is bringing us a new candor then why does her advertising never state she was the president of the Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment? Is there something about the WWE that Linda is ashamed? If I was advising her I'd put the wrestling thing out front. Any idea how many people watch that? Certainly didn't hurt Jesse Ventura.

Truth be told, the story of the McMahon family and the rise of the WWE is a wonderful American success story. In the 80's Vince and Linda, through shrewed business deals of television syndication and buying out the competition, laid the foundation for what is now one of the largest and most successful entertainment enterprises in the world. And Linda's team wants to bury that?

Shock and awe is designed to overwhelm your opponent with air power, then clean up with a strong ground force. But winning primary campaigns is by definition an insurgent effort. The Bush administration found out after 5 years that victory in Iraq - or at least stability - meant winning allegiance family by family, tribe by tribe, neighborhood by neighborhood. The Linda campaign needs to take down the advertising "air power" and hit the dusty trail of the state's 169 towns if it expects to have a chance with Republican voters.

Then again, perhaps she has something else in mind. Should she fail to win the GOP nod, perhaps she'll take a page from the state's Independent Senator, Joe Lieberman, and establish a third column. A Connecticut for Linda Party? A quixotic move, surely. But Linda might well be getting advice from a longtime WWE board member, former Independent Governor Lowell P. Weicker, aka the Tax Man - the so-called "maverick Republican" whom many Republicans love to hate. And in Connecticut, everyone knows that when the Maverick climbed into the political ring, all bets were off.

And so the plot, like many a good wrestling imbroglio, thickens.

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