Two familiar names, Linda McMahon and Chris Shays, have declared candidacies for the open US Senate seat soon to be vacated by retiring Senator Joe Lieberman. Neither candidate is new to Connecticut Republican politics. McMahon, former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., unsuccessfully ran for the other Senate seat two years ago, losing to former Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. In 2010, McMahon managed to win the Republican nomination over former-Congressmanbut lost in a double-digit upset in the general election to Blumenthal. Shays served as a Congressman from the state's fourth district for over twenty years, until he was defeated in 2008 by Democrat Jim Himes. Shays was also selected to serve as Co-Chairman of the Wartime Contracting Commission from 2008 to 2011 focusing on eliminating federal waste dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Both campaigns have gained fair ground in the state with previous supporters, and are determined to shed light on their differences in hopes of painting themselves as the ideal candidate to run against the Democrats in 2012. Shays has already made it clear that he will attack McMahon's record as CEO of WWE and the deaths of her employees. He will also press hard on the $50 million campaign she ran last election cycle, to portray her as a fiscally irresponsible candidate. Both of these- along with other baggage McMahon carries-were brought up in the last election, but Shays intends on hitting home the message that McMahon was a bad choice for the party in 2010 and she won't be any better in 2012. Shays will likely highlight his independent record that makes him better positioned to run against the Democratic nominee in a Blue state.
McMahon seems to be more focused on building up grassroots support through her endorsement-based campaign. She recently scored an endorsement by Trumbull's popular First-Selectman Tim Herbst, and is picking up momentum to win the party convention. Shays recognizes this as a possibility but has said that he will continue beyond the convention and hopes to receive a mandate from Connecticut Republicans in the primary. McMahon's loaded coffers also pose a great challenge to Shays, and given his 4th quarter reporting, fund raising will be another obstacle he will have to overcome this election cycle. At an election that will focus primarily on job creation, we can count on McMahon to stress her career in the public sector -a message that did not resonate well with voters in 2010.
The race will be anything but bland, and we can expect it to drag out until the very last moments. Both campaign will dig up dirt from their opponent's pasts -as we know there is a lot of- but the real question remains; will these be issue-driven campaigns or will they let their campaigns be defined by negative-attacks?