Two obvious vulnerabilities have long faced the candidates vying to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd in Connecticut.
Republican Linda McMahon has had to struggle with her ties to World Wrestling Entertainment, the company she helped create, and WWE treatment of its performers. Democrat Richard Blumenthal, meanwhile, has been burned by news accounts that he has repeatedly misstated his service in Vietnam by implying he had served in combat when he didn't. Now, as the fall campaign gears up, these are both getting aired in a big way.
Just two weeks after the death of former WWE performer Lance McNaught, McMahon is contending with the news of another former WWE wrestler's death. On Friday, Gertrude "Luna" Vachon, 48, was found dead at her mother's home in Florida. The results of an autopsy haven't been released, but a police report obtained by TMZ says investigators found crushed Oxycodone pills and a snorting straw in the house. Her mother, who discovered the body, told police that her daughter "often appeared medicated, as she suffered from several wrestling injuries."
A WWE spokesman told the Danbury Press' Neil Vigdor that Vachon, who was under contract at various times between 1993 and 2000, got treatment for substance abuse last year via a company program. A spokesman for McMahon declined to comment, but that won't stop questions from dogging the campaign, since Vachon's is but the latest in a recent string of mysterious deaths of former WWE performers.
But Blumenthal has problems of his own, which the McMahon campaign is stressing in a blitz of campaign messages about the Democratic nominee's Vietnam-related misstatements.
Nearly four months after the New York Times and several Connecticut papers caught Blumenthal repeatedly mischaracterizing his military service, McMahon has sent a mailer to voters listing several of her opponent's false statements on Vietnam.
The ad, posted by GOP blogger Kevin Rennie, includes a "message" from 46 Vietnam veterans calling Blumenthal "dishonest" and "dishonorable." "You lied," the note says, slamming Blumenthal's claims that he simply "misspoke." "To make up stories that are completely untrue is not simply a matter of 'misspeaking.' It is clearly a pattern of deception." Blumenthal's campaign has not responded.
The most recent poll in the race has Blumenthal leading by 10 points, but McMahon is proving a far more competitive campaign rival than many Democrats expected. Her willingness to spend whatever it takes to win could mean bad news for Blumenthal, especially as Democrats had not planned to spend many party resources on his behalf. One thing that the early skirmishing makes clear, however, is that this race will only get uglier.
(Photo of McMahon: Jessica Hill/AP)