Republican Linda McMahon and Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy are vying for the women’s vote in the race for Connecticut’s next U.S. senator.
On Saturday, Linda McMahon held a women’s rally where Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins came in to stump for her, as did popular former Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell. At the rally, McMahon focused on her personal story, as opposed to her business identity, which dominated her 2010 campaign.
“I’ve walked in your shoes. I’m a wife, I’m a mother, I’m a grandmother. I’m also a daughter. I know what it takes to have that guilt feeling when you leave your child at home that morning with a fever. Or you can’t make opening night of the school play, because you’ve been called away to do something else,” McMahon said, according to the Connecticut Mirror.
On Monday, Murphy went up with an ad entitled “McMahon Demeans Women,” which, unsurprisingly, featured five Connecticut women decrying McMahon for being bad for women.
“As CEO, Linda McMahon demeaned women to make millions in her business,” said the first woman, referring to McMahon’s tenure running World Wrestling Entertainment.
“She’s targeting children with violent images and toys,” said the second, again referring to WWE.
“Now, she’s trying to hide that,” said the third woman.
“As senator, McMahon would support a Republican proposal that would allow my employer to deny me coverage for contraception,” said a fourth. “She will deny coverage for mammograms.”
“Siding with the most extreme Republicans to deny woman health care,” said the fifth.
“CEO Linda McMahon was never on our side, and she won’t be as senator,” the narrator concluded.
Women are a coveted demographic.
In 2010, McMahon lost the women’s vote by 15 points — something her campaign has been working hard to overcome in this election cycle. Then, the campaign emphasized McMahon’s qualifications as a business executive. This time around, the goal is to focus some more on the personal aspect, and to just “let Linda be Linda,” according to one person associated with the campaign, because “when people meet Linda McMahon, they really, really like her.”
As early as 2011, they started holding coffees, where McMahon would sit down with several women and have an off-the-record conversations in someone’s living room, often talking about her life story.
The efforts appear to have been moderately successful. Though Murphy still leads among women, polls show the lead to be narrow. A Quinnipiac University poll from late August found McMahon trailing Murphy by only four points among women, 50-46. A UConn/Hartford Courant poll from last week had Murphy leading by a mere three points among women.
On Saturday, McMahon dismissed Murphy’s attacks that she was anti-woman.
“I am a woman,” McMahon told supporters at the rally Saturday. “Why on earth would I be against women?”
In a press release Monday afternoon, the Murphy campaign lashed out at McMahon for that response.
“You don’t have to be a woman to fight for women and the health care options they deserve,” the release said.
The strategy of attacking Republicans as anti-woman is straight out of the national Democratic playbook, and is a tactic that has been employed against Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, as well as in numerous other Senate races. After Rep. Todd Akin’s controversial comments about “legitimate rape,” many Democratic Senate candidates tried to tie their Republican opponents to those views.
That’s harder to do with McMahon, who describes herself as a pro-choice Republican. However, she has said that she would support the Blunt Amendment, which would allow employers to decline to cover birth control for employees if they have a moral problem with doing so, and that has given Murphy an opening.
McMahon’s support for the Blunt Amendment served as a slightly uncomfortable contrast on Saturday when Murkowski — by all accounts a moderate Republican in the style that McMahon would like to portray herself — said that she regretted her vote for the Blunt Amendment.
“Back home, it was being viewed as a direct attack on women’s reproductive rights, on their ability to access contraception,” she said at the event, according to the Connecticut Mirror.
The Murphy campaign put up a web video Monday contrasting Murkowski’s position and McMahon’s.
“Even as national Republicans backtrack from unpopular anti-choice legislation, Linda McMahon doubles down on her support for far-right policies to deny birth control and crucial health services to Connecticut women,” said Taylor Lavender, a Murphy campaign spokeswoman. “Members of her own party have spoken out against this anti-choice proposal, but Linda McMahon doesn’t blink when it comes to restricting women’s control of their own health care.”
The person associated with the McMahon campaign called the anti-woman attacks “laughable” and “desperate.”