Republicans are mourning what most now concede is the certain loss of a U.S. Senate race in Missouri that they were sure was a pickup for the GOP only last week. Rep. Todd Akin’s idiotic comments about rape and pregnancy has elevated embattled Sen. Claire McCaskill from likely lame duck to someone who is favored for another six years in Washington. That’s a blow to Republican hopes of finding the four turnovers they need to take control of the Senate next year and repeal ObamaCare, but a Rasmussen poll may give them some hope of making up for the Akin fiasco. The latest survey of the race to replace outgoing independent Democrat Joe Lieberman shows Republican Linda McMahon grabbing a surprising 49 to 46 percent lead over Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy among likely voters.
Throughout this year, McMahon has polled badly in a general election matchup against Murphy. That was the argument former congressman Chris Shays used in the Republican primary earlier this month, but the overwhelming majority of GOP voters rejected him in a landslide win for McMahon. But if the Rasmussen poll is not an outlier, it may be a sign that the pro wrestling entrepreneur may actually have a shot of stealing a seat that almost all political observers had assumed was in the pocket of the Democrats.
McMahon goes into the general election with the same edge she had when she lost a 2010 Senate race against Richard Blumenthal: money. The former boss of the WWE spent tens of millions of dollars of her own money in an election where she had the advantage of running in a year in which Republicans won a midterm landslide. She was also facing an opponent who was humiliated by the revelation that he had lied about serving in Vietnam. But Blumenthal, a popular attorney general who had been winning statewide contests for 20 years, still beat her handily. That caused observers to wonder why she — or the Connecticut GOP — would think she’d do better in a year in which Barack Obama would be at the top of the ticket in a state where the president is expected to win easily.
There’s no ready answer to that question but McMahon is determined to spend as much as she needs. She’s also up against a congressman who has no real negatives but isn’t a statewide figure either. McMahon still carries all the negative baggage that comes with running an enterprise many voters believe to be disreputable and which promotes violence and misogyny, not to mention having a record of steroid abuse. Yet perhaps after two campaigns, enough of the public is willing to overlook that and accept her as she’d like to be known now: as an independent/Tea Party figure determined to overturn the always-unpopular political establishment.
Indeed, the fact that Murphy is buying ads promoting his candidacy during the WWE’s “Raw” programming may be a sign that the Democrats are no longer counting on the wrestling issue being enough to disqualify McMahon. As the Hartford Courant reports, the WWE, which is still controlled by the Republican’s family, actually issued a statement razzing Murphy for purchasing time on their show for the second week in a row even after he and the Democrats had denigrated it as beneath the dignity of a potential senator as part of their attacks on McMahon.
We’ll have to see if today’s Rasmussen poll is confirmed by other surveys in the coming weeks. But it’s got to be worrying Democrats. If deep blue Connecticut is in play, then they are in much bigger trouble than anyone thought.