Linda McMahon’s campaign for U.S. Senate today will end its month-long television blackout with a commercial that embraces her connection to World Wrestling Entertainment.
The one-minute ad attempts to inoculate her from the off-color excesses of WWE programming, some of which has haunted her campaign, and to use the wrestling connection to brand her as the ultimate outsider.
“Before I decided to run for the Senate, I had a regular job,” McMahon says from a corporate office.
The ad quickly cuts to frenetic action. Fireworks explode. A wrestling villain stands menacingly in the ring. Another wrestler flies through the air.
“OK, maybe not a regular job,” McMahon says with a hint of a smile. “I was the CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, a soap opera that entertains millions every week. And everyone gets in on the action.”
The ad cuts back to the ring, showing brief glimpses of McMahon in the ring. In one shot she appears to be interviewing a wrestler. In another, she is backing away from a performer.
It does not show footage from a story line in which she was in a coma or when she kneed another performer in the groin.
Polling indicates it is important for the McMahon campaign to try to neutralize WWE as an issue. The new ad is the first to address WWE’s programming at length, emphasizing it is “soap opera.”
But it has been a soap opera that has featured abuse of women, including simulated rape and necrophilia. State Democrats regularly circulate links to the more outrageous footage on You Tube. One of her Republican opponents, Rob Simmons, has a library of WWE’s more offensive content on his web site, including footage of McMahon’s husband, Vince, in the ring, forcing a woman to strip.
“Take your clothes off,” Vince shouts to a crying woman. “Now, dammit, get down. Dammit, bark like a dog!”
McMahon’s commercial casts WWE’s programming as flashy, cartoonish and PG-rated.
Then the piece quickly pivots.
“That isn’t real, but our problems are,” McMahon says. “Connecticut’s families are hurting. We’re losing jobs because Washington politicians are spending money we don’t have.”
It shows an empty factory as McMahon says, “Last year, Connecticut was 47th in job creation.”
She calls for a balanced budget amendment and a continuation of a Bush administration income tax cut that is scheduled to expire.
Then comes her only criticism of her Democratic opponent, Richard Blumenthal, who has been attorney general for 20 years. He is not mentioned by name.
“We can’t stop the spending and the fix the mess if we send another big government politician to Washington,” she says. “It’s time to shake things up. It’s time for something different.”
Something different is a theme Republicans intend to sound throughout the campaign. The hope is the anti-incumbent, anti-establishment fever that has evidenced itself in polls and in party primaries elsewhere will reach Connecticut.
This ad is McMahon’s strongest attempt to borrow just a bit of the WWE outlaw image, which has hurt her in most polling, and finally turn it to her advantage.
Dierdre Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, issued a statement suggesting that might be difficult.
“Linda McMahon made millions of dollars peddling violence and sex to children, and it’s why she won’t be able to escape her dismal record as CEO no matter how much of her fortune she spends on misleading ads,” Murphy said.
McMahon’s communications strategist, Ed Patru, said the commercial will go into heavy play throughout Connecticut today.
“It’s a major buy,” he said.