McMahon gains on Blumenthal in Senate race

Holly Bailey
August 5, 2010

Linda McMahon is closing in on Richard Blumenthal in Connecticut's Senate race. A new Quinnipiac poll finds Blumenthal, the Democratic nominee, leading his GOP opponent by 10 points — 50 percent to McMahon's 40 percent. That's down from a 17-point lead Blumenthal held in the race just two weeks ago.

Of course, McMahon needs to win the GOP nomination first. Ahead of next Tuesday's primary, McMahon has a 17-point lead over former Rep. Rob Simmons, who said in May that he was quitting the race but never actually did. After suspending his campaign for two months, Simmons began running a TV ad that reminded voters that he's still in the race. Simmons argues that he has more experience than McMahon — but he actually does worse in head-to-head matchups with Blumenthal than she does. According to Quinnipiac, Blumenthal leads Simmons 54 percent to 35 percent among likely voters.Why is McMahon gaining? For one thing, independent voters are now evenly split between her and Blumenthal. And voters like her more than they did in May, when a majority of them viewed her unfavorably. According to the latest poll, her approval rating is at 43 percent — an 11-point improvement in three months. She's also shored up support among Republicans — though Quinnipiac still finds that 18 percent of self-professed GOP voters say they will vote for Blumenthal in November if she's the nominee. (That number increases to 19 percent in a Blumenthal vs. Simmons matchup.)

But it's hard to tell yet if this is a real trend. McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, has spent more than $21.5 million of her personal fortune on the race and has been running TV ads virtually nonstop all summer. By comparison, Blumenthal has largely been absent from the airwaves and the campaign trail, no doubt saving his cash for the heat of the fall campaign. One major test of McMahon's strength in the race will be how she performs when Blumenthal and his Democratic allies actually engage in the race.

Still, a 10-point margin isn't something that Democrats can laugh off in an election season dominated by voter disenchantment and desire for change. Blumenthal is one of the state's best-known public figures, and polls show that McMahon is still regarded as a novice. The sharp narrowing of Blumenthal's head-to-head lead over McMahon could be a worrying sign for Democrats come November.