With polls showing him in a statistical dead heat with GOP rival Linda McMahon, Connecticut Democratic Senate hopeful Richard Blumenthal is getting some help from Democrats in Washington.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has purchased at least $250,000 in ad time in Connecticut to run ads on Blumenthal's behalf. The spending call comes as the party is determining how best to spend its cash in the final weeks of the campaign. Democrats did not expect to have to spend money in the race, but the contest has become unexpectedly competitive, in part because McMahon has spent more than $24 million of her own cash.
But it's not just McMahon's cash that has made the race a toss-up. Privately, many Democrats are questioning why Blumenthal has not been more aggressive in going after what some view as McMahon's most obvious vulnerabilities, including her previous stint as head of World Wrestling Entertainment and her lack of experience in public life.
For months, party Democrats have been pushing stories attacking McMahon's WWE connections, noting the recent deaths of former WWE performers from apparent drug overdoses as well as from health problems that stemmed from their years in the ring. As The Upshot previously reported, at least one of the performers who died had accused the WWE of not providing adequate health care for wrestlers who have struggled with addiction and other health problems. McMahon has defended the WWE, saying the company has no control over what its performers do in their private lives. Still, the stories have gotten a lot of attention in Connecticut.
Yet Blumenthal has barely mentioned the WWE in his own campaign. Last week, the Democrat offered his most detailed critique yet of McMahon's work history, attacking her in an ad for laying off WWE workers while she got a raise. Blumenthal has shied from engaging McMahon directly on questions about the WWE's treatment of performers, even as Washington Democrats view this as a key negative for McMahon's campaign.
Why? The Blumenthal campaign did not respond to requests for comment. But a clue may lie in recent polling in the race. A Quinnipiac University poll released last month found that 47 percent of likely voters say McMahon's WWE resumé "doesn't make a difference" in the race. (Thirty-three percent said it would make them "less likely" to support her, 20 percent said "more likely.")
With polls so close, it's hard to believe someone won't play the WWE card eventually. McMahon has seemed ready for the onslaught for months — running ads that poke fun at the WWE and describe it as a "soap opera." The question now is whether it will be the DSCC or Blumenthal who brings up the issue first.
(Photo of Blumenthal by Jessica Hill/AP)