Reports out of Connecticut on Election Day tell a tale of Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon sure to go down in the annals of GOTV false flag operations.
McMahon's campaign is closing out the cycle with an appeal to urban and minority voters that looks and feels much like a Democratic campaign effort. Doorhangers call on voters to cast their ballots for President Obama as well as McMahon, promising the pair "will fight for us." T-shirts mimicking the election gear worn by members of the Service Employees International Union are being donned by pro-McMahon forces at polling places, again tying McMahon to Obama. They read "I Support Obama & McMahon November 6th." And "sample ballots" bearing McMahon's campaign bug are being handed out at some urban polling places with just two names on them: McMahon and Obama.
Nowhere does any of this material say McMahon is a Republican or is herself voting for Mitt Romney.
Voter confusion efforts are commonplace on Election Day, and both sides of the political spectrum have been caught playing fast and loose with ethics in the closing hours of a campaign. But McMahon's effort in stands out for sophistication and sheer chutzpah.
It's certainly raising eyebrows in Connecticut.
"Folks will talk about this for years to come if this deception works," Hartford Courant political reporter Rick Green wrote Tuesday.
McMahon's campaign tactic hangs on an eccentricity of election law in the Nutmeg State. She's listed as the Independent Party candidate for Senate as well as the Republican candidate. (Her Democratic opponent, Chris Murphy, is also listed more than once, appearing on the Working Families Party ballot line.) Her campaign is using her Independent Party status as the fig leaf to obscure her Republican roots and her support for Mitt Romney, which in addition to an endorsement includes $150,000 in donations to Romney's PAC from her and her husband, pro wrestling impresario Vince McMahon.
"Vote Barack Obama For President And Vote For Linda McMahon For U.S. Senate On The Independent Party Line," read her campaign's GOTV doorhangers distributed this weekend.
Her campaign took that a step further on Election Day. Staff in T-shirts closely resembling SEIU gear were spotted around urban polling places by local reporters. The McMahon campaign says that's no big deal.
"There are thousands of Democrats across the state of Connecticut who are supporting President Obama that are also supporting Linda McMahon today," McMahon campaign manger Corry Bliss told The CT Mirror. "We want to make sure their voices are heard," said Corry Bliss, her campaign manager."
The campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the sample ballots, which were noted by several reporters on the ground today as well as TPM sources in Connecticut.
Connecticut Republican Party chair Jerry Labriola said Monday that some in his party are upset by McMahon's operation. But he stood with his Senate nominee, saying her GOTV strategy was all part of appealing to an urban and minority electorate often overlooked by Republicans in the state.
"The McMahon camp is pulling out all the stops to win an election and it is one of the first efforts by a statewide Republican candidate to target voters in an urban area," he told the New Haven Register. "Some Republicans may not favor this tactic, but I'm confident that we will close ranks by Tuesday because there is so much at stake."
The Murphy campaign is unimpressed.
"Voters have been seeing President Obama on their televisions endorsing Chris Murphy for days," Eli Zupnick, a Murphy spokesperson, told TPM. "They are not going to be fooled by McMahon's desperate lies and last-minute tricks."
Here's a look at McMahon's GOTV efforts aimed at urban and minority voters sent TPM's way from folks on the ground in Connecticut.