Republican Linda McMahon is airing a new, softer television commercial that frames her U.S. Senate campaign in five words: “I’m not a career politician.”
And today, her campaign intends to complement that ad with a hard look at a previously unexplored chapter of Democrat Richard Blumenthal’s 26-year career in politics: votes cast for taxes and spending as a state legislator in the 1980s.
Together, the two commercials exploit and reinforce what is emerging as one of McMahon’s strongest assets, a simple – even simplistic, perhaps — message that matches the mood of an angry electorate.
She’s not a pol.
For the next five weeks, expect to see and hear variations of that one-two combination, as McMahon tries to sink Blumenthal with his own gold-plated resume.
Blumenthal’s challenge is to reframe the race as a choice between a public servant with a record of fighting for voters and a rich businesswoman who has put profits ahead of employees.
“We see this election as a very different kind of choice, particularly now, when people need someone they can count on,” said Marla Romash, a Blumenthal media adviser.
The first of McMahon’s new commercials is entitled, “Different.” It celebrates what would be a fatal flaw in any other field of endeavor: McMahon’s absence of experience in politics and government.
She pitches herself as a creator of jobs, never quite explaining how helping to build World Wrestling Entertainment into a global brand might get Washington on the right track.
But in a year when every poll drips with anger at Washington and fear about the economy, McMahon is selling herself as someone who gets it, just as Bill Clinton once conveyed feeling America’s pain.
“I’m not a career politician,” McMahon says in the new ad. “I’m a wife. I’m a mom. I’m a grandmother. And I’ve been in business for over 30 years.
“I’ve been bankrupt. I’ve lost everything. I’ve come back from that. Rebuilt. I know what it’s like to deal with the rules, the regulations, the taxes that are imposed on businesses.”
She is on camera for nearly the entire spot, with footage mixed in of her with family. She closes with a gentle jab at Blumenthal and his long record as a public servant – or career pol.
“I bring a totally different perspective to Washington, which I certainly think is missing from my opponent.”
“This ad frames this debate, this election correctly,” said Ed Patru, her communication director. “This election isn’t about whether someone is a fighter or isn’t a fighter. It isn’t about experience. Both Dick Blumenthal and Linda McMahon have a lot of experience.”
The question, he said, is what kind of experience.
“Blumenthal brings four decades of experience. That kind of government experience is exactly what got us where we are,” Patru said. “Washington is full of Dick Blumenthals.”
The second of McMahon’s new ads succinctly characterizes Blumethal’s experience as a state representative and state senator. It is entitled, “Two words.”
“Dick Blumenthal was a state legislator for six years,” a narrator intones. “Two words sum up his career. Tax and spend.”
Republicans controlled the legislature for two of those years, a boom time when the GOP pushed the state into a major increase in spending for education.
In 1989, with the state facing a deficit and the Democrats back in control, the legislature raised taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars. Blumenthal was a first-year attorney general in 1991, when the legislature passed a broad-based income tax.
Blumenthal’s early ads have focused on his years as attorney general, repeatedly characterizing him as a fighter.
A week ago, he began airing an ad that contrasts that resume with McMahon’s experience as the former chief executive officer of WWE, juxtaposing the layoffs of WWE employees with McMahon and her husband earning $46 million in dividends.
Romash said the Blumenthal campaign will continue to draw that contrast – and recast the choice facing voters as one more complicated than a politician and a political outsider.
“They have a choice between someone who has fought and stood up to the special interests and represented the people versus someone who in one of her company’s most profitable years laid off 10 percent of her work force and took home $46 million,” Romash said.