With Debates Over, Can Murphy Sustain Momentum?
Chris Murphy’s campaign was quick to claim victory in all four of its debates with Republican Linda McMahon, but with the debates over the Democrat will need to find a way to sustain any momentum he may have gained for the next 16 days.
Following last week’s fourth and final debate in the race for retiring U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman’s seat, the Murphy campaign sent out a statement saying their candidate swept his opponent in four consecutive debates.
“Linda McMahon’s fourth debate performance was much like her first, second, and third, because she simply repeats the same right-wing Republican talking points that we’ve heard for months,” Murphy’s spokesman Eli Zupnick said.
Though McMahon’s spokesman Todd Abrajano contests the suggestion that Murphy came away from the debates the winner, he says debates aren’t about who won or lost. It’s about which candidate did a better job getting their message across, he said.
“Linda McMahon did an excellent job in all four debates. She brought her message to voters across the state and showed she’s the only candidate with a plan to put people back to work,” Abrajano said Monday. “I think Connecticut voters saw that in crystal clear way.”
But following Thursday’s debate, Murphy expressed confidence in his performance and said he planned to reinforce to voters what they heard in the four debates.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our lead has expanded as people have been able to listen to us in these debates. I think we clearly see the reason now why Linda McMahon didn’t want to have more than four debates, I’m just going to continue to take what people have seen in these four debates and make sure they hear it for the rest of the campaign,” Murphy said.
Both campaigns will rely on a combination of TV ads and endorsements from high profile surrogates to make their case to undecided voters as the race draws to a close.
McMahon has scheduled three campaign rallies with popular Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for Monday afternoon.
Meanwhile, a source within Murphy’s campaign confirmed reports that former President Bill Clinton will come to Connecticut on Sunday to campaign for Murphy.
According to both candidates third quarter campaign finance filings, Murphy entered October with twice as much money on hand to pay for TV spots.
But McMahon, co-founder and former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, doesn’t lack for financial resources. During her unsuccessful 2010 Senate bid, she loaned her campaign $50 million and she’s already loaned her campaign another $27 million so far in this election cycle.
As a result the McMahon campaign has been able to outspend Murphy by a margin of more than four to one.
The message from both campaigns seems likely to change little between now and Election Day. On Monday night, Murphy was scheduled to appear with Sen. Richard Blumenthal and representatives of Planned Parenthood in an effort to contrast his record on women’s health issues with comments made by McMahon.
The Murphy campaign has made women’s reproductive rights and entitlement programs central to their narrative. They frequently highlight McMahon’s support of a policy that would give employers the right to choose not to provide insurance coverage of contraception.
Murphy has also focused on comments McMahon made in April suggesting she would consider a “sunset” provision for Social Security. Murphy said he wished he had more opportunities to debate McMahon because her positions on those issues aren’t clear.
“When she does tell us what she’s going to do, she switches it the next day. I mean, I am dizzy trying to figure out what her position on emergency contraception for rape victims is,” Murphy said Thursday.
McMahon has said she supports Connecticut’s law, which requires Catholic hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims.
Though McMahon won’t specify how she would like to shore up Social Security, she says she won’t consider doing anything that would reduce the benefits seniors are getting under the program today.
Meanwhile, McMahon’s campaign says she will continue to tell voters about her plan to put Connecticut residents back to work.
“The strategy is the same as it’s always been,” Abrajano said.
However last week the McMahon campaign posted a video few people expected. It featured voters who said they were supporting both McMahon and President Barack Obama, a Democrat.
Though a commercial encouraging ticket splitting seems counter-intuitive, the general election has never been about party affiliation for McMahon, who refers to herself as an “independent thinker” more often than as a Republican.
Vincent Moscardelli, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut, said that’s because she faces an uphill battle as Republican running in a liberal state. So she’s been focused on personalities rather than party.