Women may have doomed her first campaign for U.S. Senate, but Linda McMahon has flipped the script and eliminated the gender gap according to recent polls and the women gathered at a campaign rally in Norwalk Saturday.
In her second run for the U.S. Senate McMahon, the former CEO of the WWE, has made a concerted effort to reach out to female voters.
Rep. Lile Gibbons, a Republican from Greenwich, said McMahon has worked very hard over the past two years to get people to know her.
“Women are interested in supporting other women,” Gibbons said.
They also like strong women, according to Gibbons.
McMahon herself said that women were just getting to know her two years ago during her first run for Senate.
“They didn’t get to know me well enough during the first campaign and I think they are getting to know me,” McMahon said.
She attributed her success with women to the small conversations held in homes across the state and the connections she’s made with women voters through social media.
Rep. Themis Klarides, a Republican from Derby, said the people who don’t like McMahon use the WWE as an excuse not to like her without even getting to know her.
The Connecticut Democratic Party and McMahon’s opponent, three-term Congressman Chris Murphy, whose name wasn’t mentioned Saturday, have made an effort to upload as much old WWE video footage as they can to the Internet. The WWE, not the campaign, has been successful in tracking it down and removing it, claiming copyright infringement.
McMahon’s former business, which is being run by her husband Vince, isn’t an obstacle for voters, according to an Aug. 28 Quinnipiac University. poll.
Forty-seven percent of voters surveyed said her past experience as CEO of the WWE made no difference in their decision to support McMahon, while 21 percent said it made them more likely to vote for her and 30 percent said it made them less likely to vote for her. Those percentages are almost identical to where they were two years ago.
Two years ago when McMahon ran against then Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, women overwhelmingly supported Blumenthal. He maintained a 25 point lead over McMahon among women in a poll just before the election. Murphy holds just a four point advantage over McMahon when it comes to female voters according to one poll, while another poll showed there was no gender gap between the two.
“People ask me why I support Linda, how long I’ve known her, what kind of person she is,” former Gov. M. Jodi Rell told the group of about 300 women Saturday. “You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t already know.”
Rell, who declined to comment on her support of McMahon at an endorsement rally for Sen. Andrew Roraback earlier this month, said she ran into a woman who described herself as a Democrat and told her that she was voting for McMahon. Rell said she asked the woman why.
According to Rell the woman told her McMahon presents herself well and is articulate.
“I asked does the fact that she’s a woman play any part of it?” Rell said.
“To be honest with you, yes,” Rell recalled the woman saying.
Connecticut has never sent a woman to the U.S. Senate.
It was a reality that wasn’t lost on U.S. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Murkowski, the second U.S. Senator to ever win a write-in campaign, said she is only the 33rd woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate. Collins, first elected in 1996, was the 15th woman to be elected to that chamber.
There are currently 17 women serving in the U.S. Senate and Collins said they get together for dinner every six-weeks. “I will tell you it makes our male colleagues very nervous,“ Collins said.
When she was asked what they talked about by a male Senator she told him they were planning a coup. “I can’t think of a better person to help us execute that coup, than Linda McMahon,” Collins told the crowd.
Collins referenced McMahon’s economic plan and told the crowd she know what it’s like to be “broke, pregnant and uninsured all at the same time.”
“She truly is the embodiment of the American dream. A person who has worked hard, a person who has made a difference, and who will be a great leader in the United States Senate,” Collins said as the crowd cheered.
Murkowski said there’s a buzz in Washington D.C. about the U.S. Senate race in Connecticut. Thought of as a safe Democratic seat, McMahon has tied Murphy in the polls and forced the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to spend money on a race it didn’t anticipate being close.
But now those Washington insiders saying “we can put the first female to represent the state of Connecticut in the United States Senate,” Murkowski said.
Described by both Murkowski and Collins as a strong, independent woman, McMahon’s opponent seized on the their appearance in the state to highlight the difference between at least one of the Senators and McMahon.
“Senator Murkowski admitted that she let Alaska women down when she voted for the Blunt amendment, but Linda McMahon wants to go to the Senate to let Connecticut down the same way,” Taylor Lavender, a spokeswoman for Chris Murphy, said.
“Linda McMahon is a supporter of an extreme right-wing Republican plan to allow Connecticut employers to deny coverage for birth control, mammograms, and cervical cancer screenings to their female employees,” Lavender added.
McMahon has said her support of the Blunt amendment, which would allow employers to deny coverage of contraception, is an issue of religious freedom, while Democrats have framed the debate as an issue over women’s rights.
Women at the event Saturday marveled at how the Democratic party seems to think their uterus is the only thing they are concerned about in this race.
The “anti-women” sentiment was addressed by McMahon herself.
“That’s absolutely not true,” McMahon said. “I’d like them to just take a look at me and realize I am a woman.”
“Why on earth would I be against women? I clearly am not,” she added.
She said when she travels around the state and listens to women they tell her they are concerned about the economy and their children’s futures.
“What you’re telling me is that while those issues are important to you, you’re worried about your job if you’re the breadwinner, your husband’s job if he’s the breadwinner,” she said.
“This campaign is really going to turn on what candidate in this race knows about job creation,” McMahon told the crowd.
She said the candidate who gets elected should be the one who understands “that gnawing in your gut when you’re not confident you’re going to make payroll that week. When you decide not to take a salary so that other people can have a salary. You understand what it’s like to balance that cash flow from month to month.”
Polling shows the economy remains the top issue on the minds of voters. Ninety-three percent of voters said the economy is extremely or very important to them, while 57 percent of voters said women’s reproductive health issues were extremely or very important to them.