A great night for New London, not for McMahon

I think Linda McMahon might have done better at Monday night's Senate debate with Chris Murphy if she had simply taken out a cigarette lighter and set hundred-dollar bills on fire.

At least that's how I have seen McMahon's performance in the last three debates of the race; there goes a lot more of the McMahon fortune down the drain.

She lost all three.

I used to think McMahon, who, after all, made a fortune creating fake television characters, was a natural at the political debate game, poised, smiling and even-tempered.

She held her own against popular Richard Blumenthal in the 2010 Connecticut Senate race and she gained the upper hand early in her primary campaign debates this year against former Rep. Christopher Shays, letting his increasingly shrill attacks roll right off her back.

She was sweet grandma to Shays' big bad career politician.

But from the outset of her first debate against Murphy, grandma's mask noticeably slipped as her opponent relentlessly belittled her as a rich CEO who denied medical payments to employees, outsourced jobs overseas and wants to go to Washington primarily to enact a plan that would save herself $7 million in taxes.

In all three debates, Murphy very successfully wrapped McMahon in Republican paper, saying she will advance GOP agendas in all kinds of ways that would be unpopular in blue Connecticut, from deficit-growing tax cuts for the wealthy to denying women abortion and contraception access.

When he said she would empower a Tea Party Senate, he tied the whole McMahon campaign up in a big GOP ribbon. He said her coddling of rich taxpayers wouldn't trickle down.

"Linda McMahon will go to Washington to toe the Republican party line," Murphy said.

McMahon responded that she is an independent thinker, but try as she might she couldn't untie that ribbon.

McMahon put in a smarter performance in New London Monday than in the first two debates. But she seemed surprisingly unprepared for many of the same policy attacks Murphy has gotten good at.

She is also not good at personally delivering the character attacks against Murphy that have been the centerpiece of her expensive, television-centric campaign, crafted by professional political bullies.

I used to think Vince McMahon, co-founder with his wife Linda of the WWE wrestling empire, was the brawn behind the operation and Linda was the brains.

I am not so sure now, after watching Linda McMahon fumble through so much of her three debates with Murphy, answering robotically with canned answers and often not even using her allotted time.

No matter which candidate you liked, Monday was a great night for politics in New London.

I doubt there has been as big and noisy a political rally in the city in a generation. The last time I saw such a big and engaged crowd at the Garde Arts Center was to hear Bob Dylan sing.

And despite the hecklers on both sides in the audience, Monday's debate proved to be a great airing of a lot of issues, highlighting the clear and distinct choice that Connecticut voters face next month, a choice that could help shape national policy for a generation.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

David Collins


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