It was the most memorable line in a U.S. Senate race with few
Linda McMahon, the wrestling entertainment doyenne in her second go for a Senate seat, turned from the camera during the first one-on-one debate last month and looked her opponent, Congressman Chris Murphy, straight in the eyes.
"Shame on you," she scolded. "You thought this campaign was going to be a coronation because you're a Democrat running in the state of Connecticut. Now you're in a serious race with a serious woman, and you are desperate."
Murphy recoiled visibly with a nervous grin.
The three-term congressman scored a few points that day on policy particulars and the origins of McMahon's much-touted jobs plan, but he couldn't refute the essence of the taunt: that the 39-year-old Murphy could be the next Democratic Senate nominee in a deep-blue state to be embarrassed by a Republican.
Now, a month later and two days to go before Election Day, their contest to succeed the retiring Joe Lieberman has a much different feel.
McMahon, 64, has lost her post-primary lead in the opinion polls, once as high as 3 percentage points. She now trails by 6 points in the latest Quinnipiac University and Rasmussen polls.
The Oct. 24 Q-poll found that McMahon's unfavorable rating -- the bane of her failed 2010 Senate bid -- is on the rise, despite efforts to recast her image and appeal to women voters. Two years ago, McMahon was the tough corporate executive who thrived in the male-dominated wrestling world. In 2012, she is a warmer, grandmotherly business expert who knows how to jumpstart an economy. The McMahon campaign disputes any notion that her late summer momentum has petered out.
"Our internal polling still shows us with a slight lead in this race, as it has consistently for the last several weeks," said McMahon's campaign spokesman, Todd Abrajano. "The difference is going to be made in which campaign gets their voters out to the polls, and we are quite confident. Linda McMahon's supporters are much more enthusiastic for her than Chris Murphy's supporters are for him."
The outcome Tuesday could determine which political party controls the U.S. Senate. There are 23 Democratic and 10 Republican seats up for election this year. Democrats hold a thin 51-47 majority over the Republicans, with two independents. Lieberman is one of those independents.
Connecticut has not elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since Lowell P. Weicker Jr. won re-election in 1982. The state's five-member congressional delegation is all Democrats.
A different race
McMahon holds the record for the most personal spending by any Senate candidate -- a growing total of at least $92 million over two campaign cycles.
The Greenwich multimillionaire spent $50 million of her family's fortune in 2010, her first attempt at elected office. Richard Blumenthal, the state's longtime attorney general, overcame bad publicity over misstatements about his Vietnam-era military service record to trounce McMahon by 12 percentage points.
McMahon has loaned $42.6 million to her 2012 campaign, according to a New York Times' analysis of campaign finance records.
McMahon and Murphy won their respective Aug. 14 primaries by wide margins. McMahon defeated Fairfield County's former Republican congressman
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