When embattled Senator Chris Dodd decided not to run for re-election the long-serving Democratic lawmaker set the stage for a wild political match-up in Connecticut.
Now with just days to go until the state's Senate primary on Tuesday, August 10th, wealthy one-time professional wrestling promoter Linda McMahon is continuing to open campaign offices, convinced Republican voters will back her over economist Peter Schiff and former Congressman Robert Simmons, who suspended his campaign in May only to resurface in recent weeks.
McMahon has spent roughly 22 million dollars of her own self-made fortune on her Senate bid, received her party's endorsement and the latest Quinnipiac poll released on Wednesday shows her with a double digit lead over Simmons. She's unapologetic about the spending.
"I really believe how important this election is and I have the ability to fund it myself with money that I've earned and I believe that it helps me be independent," said McMahon.
McMahon's opponents have blasted her as a privileged liberal who's trying to buy the election.
While Simmons laments that the seat should not be "auctioned off," Schiff is aggressively slamming the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment in ads that feature her in center ring kicking a man between the legs. The attack ad highlights the sometimes laughable or unsavory aspects of the entertainment empire McMahon built, but she's quick to point out she knows how run a business and create jobs.
Schiff, a financial guru and former economic advisor to Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign, is hoping for an upset win despite being vastly outspent.
"I have more donors than all my opponents combined. I've got more volunteers," said Schiff. "I'm not going to buy this race like McMahon is trying to do. I'm going to win it and I don't think the Senate seat is for sale."
The winner will face off against Democrat Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal who was recently lambasted for implying he served in Vietnam, when in reality he spent much of that era in college or the Marine Corp Reserves, serving on American soil.
Despite curtailing his campaign in May, Simmons has released new ads and points out he's still on the ballot. Though trailing McMahon in the latest Quinnipiac poll, he remains hopeful and notes his military service record as an edge that could help him win over Blumenthal in the fall.
"I do not have the same problem Mr. Blumenthal has with his service record because I did serve in Vietnam," said Simmons.
According to the Quinnipiac poll, however, it's McMahon who stands the best chance in a match-up against Blumenthal, trailing the longtime prosecutor by 10 points.
Blumenthal also faces the challenge of being the ‘establishment' candidate in a year when incumbents could take a beating at the polls.
"I think for Connecticut he's been kind of the Senator in waiting," said Bilal Sekou, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Hartford. "Certainly when this opening came up, when Senator Dodd decided not to run for re-election, it created an opening for someone who people had expected for a very long time to run for a senatorial seat if one opened up."
Once expected to be an easy win for the Democrats, the Senate contest in Connecticut is shaping up to be a tough fight.