In one respect, she is the Sarah Palin of Connecticut.
Former professional wrestling magnate Linda McMahon (R) is the elephant looming over those Nutmeg State Republicans interested in the Senate seat to be vacated by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) in 2012. Just as the former Alaska governor’s presence would instantly and dramatically change the shape of the coming GOP presidential primary, McMahon’s sensational background and massive bank account could transform Connecticut’s coming Senate contest.
And while she has signaled that she may run again, McMahon, who spent a record $50 million on her failed 2010 bid, does not appear to be in a hurry. Having bought near-universal name identification in the previous cycle, she can afford to wait, according to state GOP Chairman Chris Healy. But that indecision has affected the Republican field, or lack thereof.
“We have a lot of mayors, legislators who have some promise,” Healy told Roll Call this week. “But I think as long as Linda’s seen as a person interested, it in effect freezes out a lot of people from getting into it.”
He didn’t exactly call her out for hurting recruitment efforts, but Healy suggested that McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, should pick up the pace.
“I think if you’re serious about doing something this big, no matter what your background, you’ve got to make some indication that you’re serious about it,” he said. “I guess we’ll know in the next couple months whether she is.”
People close to McMahon privately concede that she’s been trying to distance herself from the WWE while staying visible in the months since her 10-point loss to now-Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D). Late last month, she was a panelist at a Women in Power event in Westport. And following Palin’s lead, she has been active on Facebook, where she announces public appearances and even critiqued President Barack Obama’s State of the Union.
Through a campaign intermediary, McMahon declined Roll Call’s request for an interview.
The day Lieberman announced he would not seek re-election, McMahon wrote this in a Facebook post: “I believe he deserves our respect and appreciation for bringing a strong, independent and principled voice to Washington. ... Many people have asked me what my plans are. While running for the U.S. Senate in 2012 remains an option for me, I will spend the next few months focusing on how I can best serve the people of Connecticut.”
But while she’s focusing, it appears that she’s also trying to distance herself from the Washington, D.C., Republican establishment — hardly a popular group among Connecticut’s moderate electorate.