October 5, 2010 -- It may all come down to Connecticut. If the Republicans are to have any chance of winning control of the Senate, they almost certainly have to win in Connecticut.
Back when Linda McMahon was CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, she wasn't afraid to kick a man in the groin or take on her husband Vince.
But that was then. Vince now runs the WWE on his own and she has a new role: The great Republican hope in Connecticut.
In a sign of just how topsy-turvy this election year has become, McMahon is closing in on Democrat Richard Blumenthal, the state's Democratic attorney general, who once appeared to have a lock to the Senate seat.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll out today shows Republicans hold a sizable and unusual lead over Democrats nationwide, bigger than they enjoyed at this time in 1994, when they last seized control of Congress. In congressional vote preference, likely voters now divide by 49-43 percent for the Republican vs. the Democratic candidates in their districts.
McMahon and Blumenthal faced off last night in a debate. Nobody got kicked, but there were plenty of tense moments.
"Government, government, government. Government does not create jobs. It's very simple how you create jobs. An entrepreneur takes a risk," McMahon said.
Blumenthal fired back as the audience laughed, ""I'm not going to be an entrepreneur as a Senator. I will do my best to assist entrepreneurs."
Despite the heated rhetoric during the debate, the real smackdown has been on the airwaves. McMahon has out-spent Blumenthal by a ratio of 16 to 1, spending a staggering $468 per vote to win the GOP nomination. She's on track to spend more than any other Senate candidate in the country this year -- almost all of it her own.
Connecticut Senate: Linda McMahon Wrestles Richard Blumenthal
The latest McMahon ad features video from a 2003 speech Blumenthal gave in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Using clip of the speech, the ad attacks Blumenthal for erroneously saying he served in Vietnam, when in reality he received a series of deferments before joining the Marine Corps Reserves in Parris Island, South Carolina.
"Would you lie about serving in a war?" the ad's narrator says. "Dick Blumenthal did again and again. He covered one lie with another."
The ad shows Blumenthal bemoaning a lack of appreciation from the American people: "When we return we saw nothing of this gratitude."
Up until last night, Blumenthal had dismissed accusations he was straight-out lying, explaining that what he said was largely just "misplaced words." Last night, however, Blumenthal delivered his mea culpa.
"There is nothing new in this ad, and there is nothing new about the McMahon attack on me," Blumenthal, the state's Democratic attorney general said, adding that he was "sorry" that on a handful of occasions he exaggerated his military service. "I regret it. I take full responsibility for it."
A Quinnipiac University poll from Sept. 14 suggests that for most voters, the Vietnam issue will not be a major factor in their decision on Election Day. Still, Democrats are taking no chances. The national party is pouring money into the state, hammering McMahon over her management of the WWE.
In a new ad, the narrator says, "As CEO [of WWE,] McMahon laid off workers but took millions in bonuses."
In most recent polls, McMahon is still trailing Blumenthal but the race is getting closer, forcing Democrats to spend precious resources on a race they thought would not have to worry about. For her part, McMahon has already made the list of all-time biggest self-spenders in an election. According to Roll Call, only three Congressional candidates in history have donated more personal money to their own campaigns than she. And with the polls showing the race tightening, she's not finished spending.
Linda McMahon Challenges Blumenthal in Connecticut
Blumenthal pointed to McMahon's prolific spending last night, accusing his opponent of trying to buy the Senate seat.
"My campaign might be outspent, but it won't be outworked," he said, "and the people of Connecticut want an election, not an auction."