Let’s say you were a highly qualified (if somewhat shop-worn) candidate who manages to out-fund-raise an opponent in your own party. The person you’re up against doesn’t have any credentials for the office except having made a ton of money in a rather sleazy business.
Then you have the nomination taken away. And you find yourself running way behind in the primary race. You’d probably be pissed. Really pissed. (You might even engage in some primal scream therapy to a newspaper editorial board.)
Topping everything off, your expressions of disgust and frustration draw only criticism from your own party leaders for not being a good team member.
Say hello to Chris Shays and his Republican U.S. Senate campaign nightmare.
His opponent is mega-millionaire Linda McMahon, the former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO. Her only prior experience as a candidate was spending nearly $50 million of her own fortune two years ago in a losing (as in getting whomped) effort to win a U.S. Senate seat.
Shays is a former congressman, a moderate Republican who would seem to have a far better chance than McMahon of actually winning for the GOP this year in Blue State Connecticut. He’s not likely to get the chance.
Polls show McMahon with a prohibitive lead among likely Republican primary voters.
Shays has actually raised more campaign contributions than McMahon – about $1.4 million to McMahon’s $1.3 million as of the last federal reports. None of that matters a damn.
McMahon has given her campaign nearly $9 million of her own cash. She’s running TV ads that Shays can’t hope to match, and she’s virtually ignoring him in debates.
All of which helps explain Shays’ angry comments to the New Haven Register’s editorial board a few days ago.
“I have never run against an opponent that I have respected less,” he fumed. He called McMahon “embarrassingly clueless.” And he flatly rejected the idea of endorsing or campaigning for McMahon should she win the primary.
These are not the sorts of nasties that faithful party types are supposed to be saying in our political Land of Steady Habits.
Of course, that’s not going down too well with GOP leaders. State Republican Chairman Jerry Labriola pointedly made an appeal for “party unity” right after Shays’ comments came out.
McMahon hasn’t exactly been waving the Republican Party banner on high. She’s trying to petition her way on the November ballot as an independent, so she can run both on that line and as a Republican (assuming she wins the August primary).
That may be a smart tactic since the Democratic candidate who emerges from that party’s U.S. Senate primary is likely to also get the Working Families Party endorsement, and thus appear twice on the ballot. But it isn’t quite the purely “Republican” thing to be doing.
None of which will help Shays much.
Connecticut’s GOP appears to be so enchanted with McMahon’s willingness to spend unlimited amounts of her own money that they’ve lost sight of the massive political anchor around her neck.
Her only credentials for becoming a U.S. Senator involve her success as a business leader with the WWE. And for that reason it seems impossible for McMahon to ever distance herself from the WWE’s ugly record of wrestler drug abuse, televised pseudo-violence and simulated sex during her tenure as CEO.
Those blistering comments by Shays about how unqualified McMahon is as a candidate appear certain to end up in some sort of devastating Democratic campaign ad, for example.
Seems like it’s a no-win situation – for Shays, for McMahon and for Connecticut’s GOP.