No-Holds-Barred Fight: Connecticut Senate Race Tightens

Amanpour interviews candidates as they spar over Dodd seat.

October 10, 2010, 9:18 AM

October 10, 2010— -- It was supposed to be an easy win in Connecticut -- holding the blue-state Senate seat held by Democrats for almost 50 years, but things went off-script when a former wresting CEO won the Republican nomination. Now the seat is a must-win for Democrats if they want to keep control of the Senate, and the Democratic candidate, a popular state attorney general who hopes to succeed Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., is facing a tough, well-funded opponent with whom he is locked in a no-holds-barred battle.

Recent polls show Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic candidate, and Linda McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, locked in a tight race. "This Week" anchor Christiane Amanpour traveled to the Nutmeg State for exclusive interviews with both Senate hopefuls.

She asked McMahon, who is running for office on her business expertise, how she would work to reduce the United States massive deficit.

"The reason I've not been specific as to particular programs and I've dealt with it in terms of rolling back non-defense discretionary spending to 2008 levels because that was an approach that I took as a CEO. You look at, OK, how are you going to cut costs and cut expenses? You can look at a 10% cut across the board ..." she said.

McMahon also said that the U.S. should freeze federal hiring and freeze wages as well as taking "the balance of the stimulus money and pay down the debt."

Amanpour asked McMahon about behavior that was demeaning to women that took place in the ring while she was CEO of WWE.

"What do you really think when you see some of that go on in the ring? The girl who is told to get on all fours, I think by your own husband, and bark like a dog? Are you comfortable with that?" Amanpour asked.

"WWE programming has changed from being TV-14 over the years, which, that's the time you were talking about, it was called the Attitude Era, into now being PG, rated by the networks as PG. I'm happy with the content today," the Senate hopeful said.

"As a senator," Amanpour asked, "if you could stop it would you stop that kind of depiction against women on the public airwaves? Would you at least lobby or campaign against it?"

"I do believe in the first amendment rights and content --" McMahon said.

"So, you don't think there's anything wrong with it?" Amanpour interjected.

"Well, content providers are clearly creating scenarios ... from an entertainment point of view, I think that you either elect to go to a movie or you elect to watch a program so, I'm a strong proponent for first amendment rights," she said.

"At the same time, at WWE, women really are powerful women," the former CEO said, "and the programming content, as I've said, has changed from TV-14 to TV-PG."

"I much prefer it today," McMahon said.

If McMahon wins, she will be the first Republican in that Senate seat since 1963.

Richard Blumenthal is a popular long-time Attorney General in Connecticut. Amanpour asked him why he's facing such a tough race.

"We've said from the beginning that this would be a tight, tough, competitive race and a…negative [TV] attack is bound to narrow the polls and we expected it, it's happened," he said.

Amanpour pressed him on how it was a close race in such a Democratic state.

"What I know about people is that they vote for the person, not necessarily the party and that is increasingly true these days and I hope they will vote for me," he said.

Part of Blumenthal's difficulties have stemmed from statements he made claiming to have served in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It turns out, he served in the Marine Corps Reserves stateside and never went to Vietnam during his tour of duty.

"I have answered the question about Vietnam saying that I am sorry that I inaccurately described my military record. I am proud of having served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and I think the voters of Connecticut are concerned about the real issues," he told Amanpour at his campaign headquarters. "And I believe that those are the issues that will be center in the election."

"I always run like I'm an underdog, like I'm 10 points behind," he said. "But I think there is a very clear contrast between someone who has been a CEO, claims to create jobs, and has treated people in a way I don't think the people of Connecticut would want anyone representing them to treat them.

Cindy Smith contributed to this report

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