Posted 10/22/12

Final Push

Linda McMahon
GOP Senate nominee

Photo by Steve Kotchko

In Connecticut’s U.S. Senate race the four debates are over.  Now it is time for the final push to Election Day by the two hard-hitting rival candidates Republican Linda McMahon and Congressman Chris Murphy (D-CT).  It is expected to be two weeks of extensive TV ads, positive and negative, some press conferences, new polls, and political “celebrity” visits.

The debates ended Oct. 18, with a Murphy-McMahon matchup in Hartford sponsored by the Connecticut Broadcasters Association, and hosted by yours truly.  It was characterized by verbal volleys on topics that have been evidenced in the other debates including:  job growth, Social Security, and women’s issues.

While the attacks were sharp, both candidates were careful not to go overboard because neither Senate hopeful wants his or her campaign put on the defensive for the final weeks of the campaign.  The final push is the time to sharpen the message, flood the airwaves with ads, and generally try to get the voters attention whatever way they can.

The race has stayed close all along.  A poll done by the Hartford Courant newspaper and the University of Connecticut last week showed Murphy with a 6 point lead over McMahon.  The Republican candidate’s camp quickly challenged the survey.  Corry Bliss, McMahon’s campaign manager, said:  “These results are extremely suspect…the methodology of this poll is completely flawed.”

McMahon’s camp said while independent voters make up the largest voting bloc in Connecticut, the poll sample of 547 randomly selected voters included just 16% independents, 34% Republicans, and 50% Democrats.  Bliss said the poll is “not representative of Connecticut’s voting population—despite the Courant’s biased attempt to dismiss the sampling errors.”

Jennifer Dineen, the UConn poll’s director, defended the survey, explaining that researchers first ask the person telephoned if they are a registered voter, then if they are likely to vote on Election Day.  She said party affiliation doesn’t surface until later in the survey.

It is expected that a more established voter survey, the Quinnipiac University Poll, will issue at least one and likely two more polls on the Senate race before Election Day.  The Quinnipiac Poll, up until now, has shown the contest to be a dead heat.

Meanwhile, get set for a parade of political “stars” coming to Connecticut to boost the Senate candidates.  Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Chris Coons (D-DL), and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) all campaigned for Murphy in Stamford last Friday.  The next day, Murphy brought former comedian, now U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), with him to the University of Connecticut in Storrs, along with Blumenthal, and Gov. Dannel Malloy (D-CT).

There hasn’t been a whisper yet about any visit to Connecticut by Democratic President Barack Obama (who is in a very tight race himself), but word leaked late last week that former president Bill Clinton, considered by many as the most wanted Democratic guest by campaigns, will be in Connecticut Oct. 28th to campaign for Murphy.

On the Republican side, Linda McMahon was due to have New Jersey’s outspoken GOP Gov. Chris Christie stump with her in Stamford, Waterbury, and Glastonbury Oct. 22.

It’s likely some of those big names and others also will show up in supportive TV ads for McMahon and Murphy in the closing weeks of the campaign.  If viewers (voters) have grown tired of seeing and hearing the two candidates and their campaigns bash each other in commercials and reach for the remote to change stations, the appearance of Bill Clinton, Dick Blumenthal, Chris Christie, or John McCain saying nice things about Murphy or McMahon may cause them to stay and listen.

Like it or not, there will be a blitz of TV ads for the two Senate candidates in these weeks prior to election.  By now, you know that’s the American way.  McMahon has had the volume edge in TV ads based on her personal wealth.  Campaign finance reports show that McMahon has loaned more than $27 million to her campaign, a pattern she also used in her 2010 unsuccessful Senate run.

However, Democrats want to keep the Connecticut Senate seat, being vacated by independent Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman, so expect the Murphy campaign to attract outside Democrat-oriented money in the final weeks of the campaign as well.

Finally, there should be a slew of “free media” events, that is news conferences on various campaign issues.  They cost nothing and can attract general media attention.  It is likely this tactic will be employed more by Murphy.  The McMahon camp has shied away from wide-open media events, preferring to stick to their “paid media” campaign of TV commercials.

Follow Steve Kotchko on Twitter for news and insider tidbits on politics and government@CRN_News