MILFORD–What was supposed to be a rally turned out to be more of a pit stop.
Hundreds of Linda McMahon supporters packed the town green Saturday afternoon waiting to hear Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown draw parallels between his upset victory in Massachusetts earlier this year and McMahon’s chances in her battle for with Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
Brown, who stunned heavily-favored Democratic attorney general Martha Coakley in the special election to fill the term of the late Edward Kennedy, gave the crowd what they were looking for — for five minutes.
“People are tired, they’re hurting,” Brown, who took the podium on Town Hall steps just after 1:45 p.m., said. “They’ve had enough. And you guys have a great chance. A great chance.”
Since winning the Jan. 19 special election, Brown said he’s traveled to various sections of the country and abroad, particularly the Middle East, adding that his travels have convinced him McMahon, the owner of World Wrestling Entertainment, has the right focus.
“From the kings and queens down to the poorest farmer, you know what they talk about? Jobs,” he said, adding that Blumenthal, is “somebody who’s going to be in lockstep with the majority party” and its policies of higher taxes and deficit spending.
“Was that it?” one bystander, who declined to give his name, said as he walked away afterward.
The rally began shortly 12:45 p.m. with about 35 minutes of speeches from local politicians and other McMahon supporters before breaking to await McMahon and Brown’s arrival. The two appeared about1:45 p.m.
Milford Republican Town Committee member Lynne McNamee, a McMahon backer, said she thought Saturday’s event “was more of an endorsement than a rally,” but added she understood that both Brown and McMahon have busy schedules.
State Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, a longtime McMahon supporter, said planners didn’t want to keep attendees too long on a crisp, sunny Saturday, especially given the hard work they will be asked to put in between now and Nov. 2.
“It didn’t go very long, but we wanted to tie up people for the whole day,” he said, adding he believes the rally nonetheless was effective at firing up McMahon supporters.
John McConnell, a Milford Republican Town Committee member who attended Saturday’s event, said Brown’s presence was inspiring, regardless of the brevity. “Scott Brown wasn’t even on the radar screen when he announced and the same was true for Linda,” he said. “This was wonderful.”
Brown, who campaigned earlier in the day with GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley in Glastonbury and Manchester, stayed to shake hands with the crowd for a few minutes after McMahon wrapped her speech, but neither politician gave media interviews.
McMahon, who came out with Brown and spoke immediately afterward, didn’t linger much longer, speaking for seven minutes and drawing more parallels between the Massachusetts contest and her own than Brown did.
“Nobody knew who I was. I didn’t have any name recognition at all” upon entering the race, McMahon said, adding Brown faced a similar challenge late last year when he squared off against Coakley.
“It was said he (Blumenthal) could not be beaten, he was a shoo-in,” McMahon said. “Nobody gave the state of Connecticut a second thought. Well, look where we are now.”
Coakley committed several verbal blunders during her campaign, including referring to former Boston Red Sox pitcher and 2004 American League Championship Series hero Curt Schilling — an outspoken political conservative — as “another Yankee fan.”
She admitted to making a mistake when she filed financial disclosure forms submitted for her Senate bid, failing to report an account in her husband’s name with over $200,000 and a personal IRA with about $12,000.
Blumenthal also has made some missteps; earlier in the campaign he apologized for having “misspoken” on several occasions when he referred to service in Vietnam. He was in the Marine Corps during the conflict, but was stationed in the United States.
“There is no confusion in my mind about where I was in that tour,” said Vietnam War veteran Michael Beringer of Orange, a McMahon supporter who spoke at the rally. “And I have never misspoken about my military service.”
Blumenthal, a former state senator who has served as attorney general since 1991, has repeatedly been labeled as a “career politician” by McMahon, who also hammered that point again Saturday.
“I connect with the people of Connecticut,” she said. “I walk in their shoes. … I’ve known the lean times.”
And like Massachusetts after Brown’s win, “Connecticut is on the map,” both as a state Democrats can’t take for granted, and as one Republicans now know they can win, she said, urging her backers to work hard in the final three weeks before Election Day. “We need that volunteer ground game.”
Though the Town Hall green was packed, not everyone was there to support Linda McMahon.
About a dozen Milford Democrats walked the grounds quietly, carrying signs with messages targeting McMahon’s controversial business, such as “Steroids Ain’t Vitamins” and “Linda: Profits Before People.”
McMahon slipped earlier this month when, while accepting a business group endorsement, she gave a vague response to questions about whether the minimum wage should be reconsidered or repealed. She later declared that she did not favor repeal, but acknowledged that she didn’t know what the minimum wage is or whether any WWE employee are paid at that level.
The Blumenthal campaign has characterized that incident as showing McMahon would consider lowering the minimum wage, and Blumenthal campaign manager Mindy Myers repeated the charge in a statement issued during Saturday’s rally.
“Today, Scott Brown joins Sarah Palin in endorsing Linda McMahon,” Myers wrote. “The last time Mrs. McMahon accepted an endorsement, she said she would look at lowering the minimum wage. The last time Linda McMahon went to a Tea Party rally, she told them she’d never spent any money on Washington lobbyists – she’s spent more than $1 million — and said she would consider eliminating the Departments of Education, Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency. We can’t wait to see what she says today.”