Despite gain in poll, McMahon still searches for votes

BRISTOL-Linda McMahon has been scouring the state for undecided Republican voters, and she found a live one at the Panera Bread cafe here Monday afternoon.

Matthew Davis, a 35-year-old Burlington resident, abandoned his laptop and made a beeline for McMahon as soon as he realized who she was. “I still have to make my decision,” he told her. “What’s the biggest thing you can tell me, in a paragraph or so?”

McMahon made her case in a seven-minute exchange, trying to sell him on her business experience and her independence, before moving on to the next stop. Davis was impressed, if not totally won over.

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Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon talks with patrons at a Unionville coffee shop (Deirdre Shesgreen)

For one thing, he didn’t ask her the question that was really on his mind. “My biggest concern is, did she buy all this notoriety?” Davis said. “And does that necessarily make you a good candidate?”

Davis said he certainly knew more about the former World Wrestling Entertainment executive than he did about her two GOP rivals, thanks to the $22 million McMahon as spent so far on her self-funded campaign. But he said he still planned to do more research online Monday night before heading into the voting booth today.

Although she didn’t close the deal with Davis, McMahon seemed to be having a better final 24 hours than her GOP counterparts, ex-Rep. Rob Simmons and investor Peter Schiff, as the three-way primary contest came down to the wire.

“How many of you are registered Republicans?” Schiff, a Tea Party favorite, asked an audience of 12 elderly voters at a retirement home in West Hartford.

“Why don’t you ask how many of us are registered Democrats?” came the response from one woman.

Schiff obliged, and eight hands shot up. After explaining why they couldn’t vote for him, Schiff launched into his stump speech anyway.

“The wealth of an entire generation is going to be squandered by a federal government that cannot hold the promises it made,” he said. He then moved on to a highly relevant topic for his audience, Social Security, which he called a “Ponzi scheme” on the edge of collapse.

One resident complained that his message was “just gloom and doom,” to which Schiff responded: “Well, I’m telling you the gloom and doom just because you can’t vote for me.”

For his part, Simmons spent the day trying to discount a new Quinnipiac University poll, released Monday, showing him trailing McMahon by 22 points, 50 to 28, with Schiff at 15 percent, among likely Republican voters.

“The poll doesn’t tell you a damned thing,” said Simmons, who suspended his campaign in May after McMahon won the GOP endorsement but then re-entered the race two weeks ago. He argued that the only poll that should be of interest to Republican voters is one that shows who would match up best against the Democratic nominee, Richard Blumenthal.

“The Aug. 4 poll tells you the real story, that I’m as competitive with Richard Blumenthal as Mrs. McMahon,” he said.

Simmons said the electorate still seems unsettled. And indeed, Monday’s survey showed that 7 percent of likely Republican voters remained undecided and 30 percent who expressed a preference said they might change their mind.

“There is a very large group of people who could flip their vote in the next 24 hours,” Simmons said.

McMahon said she was not putting too much stock in the new numbers. “It just continues to reinforce with me the momentum in the race,” she said. “For me it hasn’t really been a roller coaster,” she said, but more of a steady, methodical push forward.

A push that will continue until the very last minute. After her stop in Bristol, McMahon headed to Waterbury for a “telephone town hall,” where she planned to field questions by phone from a select group of voters. Her campaign spokesman, Ed Petru, said the campaign hoped to get thousands of people to participate, but he declined to say who the target audience was other than registered Republicans.

Even as McMahon tried to cement her lead going into today’s vote, she was also preparing to pivot quickly to a general election contest against Blumenthal, with a couple of new ads already cut in case she does win today. “We are ready to go,” she said.