Jodi Rell's announcement that she won't be running for another term as Connecticut's governor has resulted in such a massive upheaval on the Republican political landscape that it probably can be measured on the Richter Scale.
Two contenders for the Republican nomination to oppose incumbent Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd have changed direction, opting in one case to go for the governor's slot and in another to run for a House of Representatives seat instead.
In both cases we are seeing common sense blended with astute political maneuvering, because in both cases the senatorial candidates were trailing GOP frontrunner Rob Simmons, the former Congressman from Connecticut's 2nd District who is maintaining a consistent double-digit lead over Dodd. Their decisions to abandon the senatorial race and head for greener pastures speaks volumes about Simmons' strength in his home state, and the fact that their chances are better in other races.
Even though Dodd is increasingly coming under fire from his own party, at this moment it doesn't appear likely that he will crumble under the pressure and step aside. Dodd is far too entrenched and far too powerful to fold his tents and slink away into the night. He also is getting solid support from President Obama and it is unlikely that he will lose that support.
Even if Dodd eventually does shrink from the fight, any Democratic replacement currently on the horizon will still attract sufficient voters that the GOP in turn requires a serious campaign from a serious contender who can step into the Senate without missing a beat. The next Senator from Connecticut must be able to enter the fray on issues of health insurance, banking, housing, the economy, and national defense with knowledge and the strength it brings.
The only Republican candidate who can offer the requisite knowledge, skills and abilities is Simmons, who also has such a solid background in foreign affairs, between his lengthy military service as an intelligence officer, as well as his work in the Central Intelligence Agency, that he will require virtually no break-in period.
Aside from Simmons, there are two contenders left in the race for the GOP nomination, Linda McMahon, former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, and Peter Schiff, a Fairfield County money manager. I mean no disrespect here, but while McMahon is spending heavily on advertising and still getting little to no traction, Shiff is barely on the radar.
Interestingly, in the most recent Quinnipiac University Poll, Simmons maintained his advantage despite the money spent by his opponents on campaign ads. Like McMahon, Tom Foley, a successful businessman and fund-raiser who was rewarded for his efforts to raise money for George Bush with the ambassadorship to Ireland, had instant access to millions of campaign dollars. But those millions could not launch him ahead of Simmons and Foley's camp announced yesterday that he now is turning his sights toward the Governor's seat.
Likewise, Connecticut state Sen. Sam Caligiuri has withdrawn from the senate race, and instead is entering the race for Connecticut's 5th Congressional District.
Leaving McMahon as the most serious challenger to Simmons. But McMahon, successful businesswoman and all around nice person that she is, is politically vulnerable on several fronts.
Let's forget for just a moment the seaminess of the world of professional wrestling, with its violence, repeated allegations of drug abuse, sexism and sexually oriented content that may attract some young voters, but likely won't help secure the GOP nomination.
McMahon has a lot of explaining to do particularly in convincing Republican voters, who will have the final say in the selection of a candidate to oppose Dodd, that she really is a Republican.
McMahon has a checkered history of political support, and until late this summer had given roughly as much money to the Democrats as she did to the GOP. But to actually show an even-handedness on her part, you have to track her political contributions all the way back to the late 1980s.
Then, when McMahon began to take fire for her financial switch-hitting she rushed to the bank account and wrote a $30,400 check to the National Republican Senatorial Committee! Wasn't that nice of her? I'm sure the national Republicans were happy to receive the donation, but does she really think Connecticut's GOP voters won't notice the hypocrisy? And lately, she has been dropping $500 to local town committees here, and $250 to local town committees there.
And this is supposed to buy her support?
Especially when she made pretty significant donations, well over $10,000, to various Democratic candidates and causes in the last three years, including - get this, to Rham Emanuel, the chief strategist and hatchet man for none other than Democratic President Barack Hussein Obama, mmmm, mmmm, mmmm!
So, given that the Republicans have the final say in selecting a candidate, either through the party convention next spring, or through a primary next summer, how is she going to convince us that she won't be falling right in line with Obama's Long March to the far, far left of the political universe?
Even if, by some weird alignment of celestial bodies, McMahon does get the GOP nomination, she will have some explaining to do to offset the Dodd attacks. Dodd is hellbent on keeping his post and anyone who faces him must expect incessant attacks that will be vicious, and expensive to overcome - even for someone who is committed to spending tens of millions of their own dollars for a job that pays about $180,000.
We can certainly expect that Dodd will immediately take up the issue raised this month by the Journal Inquirer newspaper in Manchester - that McMahon accepted millions of Obama's stimulus money to keep her professional entertainment wrestling empire afloat. But WWE personnel still got the axe, so where did the money go? To the McMahon's personal savings accounts?
I don't know, but you can bet that Dodd will be asking that question - every single day.
America's voters are engaged, enraged, informed and not the least bit inclined to accept any candidate who is not solidly on the side of bringing some common sense back to Washington, D.C. Linda McMahon is to be commended for her interest in the American political system, but she has woefully little to offer in the way of solid GOP credentials.
The political planets are aligning, the landscape is settling, and if Linda McMahon wants to be part of this country's political future, it would be wise of her to find a somewhat less conspicuous position from which to launch her political career. There she can show by actions, rather than ads and campaign statements, that she really adheres to conservative values and is not just another Democratic plant hoping to keep the left in control of the country.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009