McMahon finds herself on familiar Connecticut turf: attacked, ahead

FILE: June 14, 2012: Former Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn, and Linda McMahon debating at the University of Connecticut campus in Storres, Conn.

FILE: June 14, 2012: Former Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn, and Linda McMahon debating at the University of Connecticut campus in Storres, Conn.  (AP)

Pro wrestling mogul Linda McMahon finds herself in a familiar position this summer -- attacked as a candidate depending more on her personal wealth than her political skills to win a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut -- but once again the likely Republican primary winner.

The only real difference for the millionaire, former professional wrestling executive is the primary attacks this year have been exceptionally harsh, even compared to those against McMahon in her debut 2010 run.

One ad two years ago shows a wrestler pretending to smash a folding chair over the head of his opponent, then McMahon, a former World Wrestling Entertainment chief executive officer, standing in the ring hand-in-hand with husband and company founder Vince McMahon.

This year’s primary opponent, former GOP Rep. Christopher Shays, recently called McMahon “clueless” and said she is the political opponent for whom he has the least respect, after having served 32 years in elected office.

“I have never run against an opponent that I have respected less,” Shays told the New Haven Register after a July 18 debate, then characterized McMahon’s performance as “embarrassingly clueless.”

McMahon’s camp and political analysts have said the recent comments from the well-respect Shays suggest his frustration and realization that his political career might be coming to a close as McMahon holds a significant lead just weeks before the August primary.

“It has become increasingly clear that Shays has become unglued,” McMahon campaign manager Tim Murtaugh said. “It’s sad to see his career end this way.”

A recent Quinnipiac poll shows McMahon leading Shays by 29 points.

Shays, a moderate with support from such Washington Republicans as Karl Rove, appeared to suggest after the debate that he faces long odds in extending his political career, considering the campaign could not afford TV ads – crucial when trailing late and because he has under-whelming name recognition despite 21 years in the House.

His campaign said this week it had received an infusion of money for media buys and remains optimistic about winning.

Communications Director Amanda Bergen didn’t question the validity of the Quinnipiac poll, but said it might not reflect true voter sentiment because voters disconnect during the summer.

“People won’t start paying attention until early August,” she said.

 Bergen said the campaign is also focusing on Republican primary voters and spending its advertising money in their specific markets.

“This election is too important to waste,” she said. “Chris votes on principle (and) he has the experience to hit the ground running.”

The Shays campaign also has repeatedly characterized McMahon as scripted and unprepared for Congress, much like she was criticized in the 2010 primary against former Rep. Rob Simmons and in the general election with Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who defeated her.

Regardless of who wins, either candidate will have a difficult time defeating the Democrat challenger in the race for the open seat of Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent, considering the blue state has a no Republicans in either the House or Senate.  

Meanwhile, McMahon continues to poor millions of her own money into the race, as she did in 2010. And her campaign continues to stick to its message and look ahead to a match up with likely Democratic nominee Rep. Chris Murphy.

“Linda McMahon will be the Republican winner on the night of August 14,”  Murtaugh told FoxNews.com.

He also said the campaign is sticking to its grass-roots campaign effort to contacts thousands of voters and tell people that McMahon is not a career Washington politician, but in fact a jobs creator whose wrestling business started as a kitchen table operation that once went bankrupt.

“She understands the plight of the small business person because she has lived through it,” Murtaugh said.