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Women voters were a deciding factor Linda McMahon’s 12 point defeat in the 2010 U.S. Senate race, and in order to win the 2012 contest she will need the support of Democratic, Independent, and Republican women.

McMahon, a former wrestling executive, is the Republican and Independent candidate for Connecticut’s open U.S. Senate seat. She is locked in a tight race with Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy in a state where 767,693 voters are Democrats, 430,439 are Republicans, and 872,243 are unaffiliated.

McMahon’s need to win over women voters is part of the reason why her campaign started targeting voters who support President Barack Obama. From television ads to mailers, McMahon said there was confusion among voters she spoke with about their ability to split their vote.

She said voters told her they wanted to vote for her but were unable because they were Democrats.

“They got confused because in the primary they could only vote for one party,” McMahon said after a “Women for Linda” breakfast rally in Glastonbury Monday.

McMahon said she had to explain that unlike the primary, where voters receive a ballot with a list of candidates from only one party, that the general election is different.

But she came across another issue. She said some Democrats said they could never vote for a Republican.

“Well, we’ve solved that because we’re also on the independent line,” McMahon said.

She said that was the genesis of the commercial and the door hanger. 

“A Republican can not win even if you get every Republican vote,” McMahon said.

Debbie Beebe of Andover said she’s going to be splitting her ticket and voting for both McMahon and Obama.

She said she doesn’t like Gov. Mitt Romney’s positions on gay marriage. She has a daughter who is gay and doesn’t believe the government should force its views of marriage on anyone.

“They don’t know what it’s like,” Beebe said.

Christine Stuart photo

As for McMahon, she’s a businesswoman who is independent, Beebe explained.

“I voted for Chris Murphy in the past and he’s had his chance,” she said. “I think Linda will work well with both parties.”

Ben Marter, a spokesman for Murphy’s campaign, scoffed at the notion McMahon would work with Obama.

“That’s a lie,” Marter said. “She’s lying to voters. President Obama supports Chris Murphy.”

Kathy Shea of Hebron said she too will be voting for McMahon because she doesn’t want to send a career politician back to Washington. She said in order to get change we need to send someone who will work across the aisle.

But Shea, unlike Beebe, is a Romney supporter.

Ann Brickley, a Republican who ran in 2010 against U.S. Rep. John Larson, said she recently hosted a gathering of women at her house and there was confusion about splitting the vote. She said McMahon addressed the questions and talked about how she would work with both parties to accomplish her goals.

“She also talked about how she’s not a rubber stamp and how we can’t expect her to vote along party lines,” Brickley said.

The reception was one of 200 McMahon has held with women voters across the state since announcing her candidacy.

“She’s a good listener and empathizes with people,” Brickley said.

Catherine Marx, former vice chairwoman of the Connecticut Republican Party, said women especially are independent minded and even though she’s a partisan she understands that women will be picking candidates from both political parties.

The race as Marx sees it is “razor thin” and women have been responding well to McMahon.

“There’s a real climax in the dysfunction in Washington and people want to send someone down there to fix it,” Marx said. “Women know how to get things done.”

She said 2012 is different because voters in Connecticut knew Blumenthal, but they don’t know Murphy as well which plays to McMahon’s favor.

“They don’t want to send a partisan,” she said.

Chris Healy, the former Republican Party Chairman, who was one of the only males to attend the event Monday said he thinks McMahon is a better candidate. He said proof of that was the Gov. Chris Christie event at the same location in Glastonbury last month which drew 900 people many of whom he had never seen before.

“I just don’t sense the same amount of enthusiasm on their side,” Healy said.

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But he didn’t attend the Hartford rally for Murphy Monday afternoon where the crowd seemed fired up for their candidate.

Jim Calhoun, the former UConn Men’s Basketball coach, who was the featured speaker at the event, said he already voted by absentee ballot for Murphy because he’s headed to Germany tomorrow with the Men’s Basketball team.

But his endorsement of Murphy comes not as a basketball coach, it comes as a 27 year citizen of the state of Connecticut.

“I’m here because like all of you I have a story to tell,” Calhoun said. “Four sisters, five female grandchildren, a wife certainly, and two great daughter-in-laws somebody is trying to tell them what they should do with their bodies.”

“That’s why we’re here,” Calhoun said. “That’s why I’m here. It’s your choice.”

Health care is another reason Calhoun is supporting Murphy. As a three time survivor of cancer he knows how much it would cost a family who doesn’t have good coverage.

“Every single person in this country needs to be insured,“ Calhoun said.

Calhoun was proceeded in his remarks by a handful of individuals Murphy has helped as congressman.