Manchester — The U.S. Senate campaigns of Republican Linda McMahon and Democrat Chris Murphy have at least one thing in common: They can read polls that say no issues come close to jobs and the economy in 2012.
That is why AdChem Manufacturing Technologies played host Monday to Murphy, the latest candidate for state or federal office to kick off a jobs tour, several of whom already have been to the aerospace manufacturer.
McMahon launched her tour three weeks ago in Danielson, and jobs was pretty much the only answer she gave at her debate last week with her GOP rival, Chris Shays, no matter the question.
“All jobs, all the time,” said McMahon’s spokeswoman, Erin Isaac.
On Monday, Murphy stood on the shop floor at AdChem, a stop on Democrat Richard Blumenthal’s path to his Senate victory in 2010, when McMahon was his GOP opponent and jobs and the economy were voters’ top concern.
If everyone is talking about jobs, can any candidate make an impression?
“Obviously, the economy is the number one issue,” said Jonathan Ducote, the campaign manager for Murphy’s rival for the Democratic nomination, former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz.
The candidates all have tried their own emphasis.
McMahon, the co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment, stresses her business experience as “a job creator,” not unlike the GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.
Shays, who was a congressman from 1987 to 2009, emphasizes an ability to translate ideas into legislation.
In December, Bysiewicz issued a 34-page economic plan that stressed accountability on Wall Street, an effort to capture some of the anger toward the financial services bailout. She proposed cuts in defense spending and ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.
Murphy sketched out five principles: closed tax loopholes; assist manufacturers by making new machinery tax free and by pushing the Pentagon to buy American; invest in infrastructure; maintain funding for education; and encourage a clean and renewable energy industry by mandating the reduction of carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020.
Some overlap with Bysiewicz’s plan, including the elimination of the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans, while maintaining them for the more populous middle class.
But Murphy is trying to distinguish his jobs tour on two stylistic counts: He is emphasizing his contact with employees, as much as employers; and he will try out different jobs on his tour, a potential hook for TV and still photographers.
“I do things differently. This tour is going to be different,” Murphy said.
It is difficult to put a unique spin on a jobs tour launched from AdChem, when Blumenthal campaigned there in 2010 and state senators emphasized their jobs legislation at a press conference there earlier this year.
But AdChem offers good talking points, and its ownership is friendly to Democrats. The company was the exporter of the year last year, and it is one of the aerospace contractors benefiting from Pratt & Whitney Aircraft’s booming engine business.
It also has benefited from state programs that offset training costs for new hires, such as the two University of Connecticut engineers that the company just hired in anticipation of more work.
Murphy insisted his approach is fresh.
“Now, listen, I haven’t been around politics for very long, but I have watched a lot of candidates or elected officials who think just by stopping by a business for an hour that they demonstrate they know what it takes to get jobs started here in Connecticut,” Murphy said. “They show up with their entourage.”
It was an odd assertion for the 38-year-old Murphy: He managed a congressional campaign at age 22, was elected to the General Assembly two years later and on Monday he showed up with a standard campaign entourage.
Murphy had two stops on his tour Monday: AdChem and Total Image Beauty and Barber in Stamford.
“Don’t worry, I am not going to operate any heavy machinery here. I am not going to cut anybody’s hair today,” Murphy said. “But I am determined to be the kind of senator who works just as hard to represent Connecticut’s workers as I do to represent Connecticut’s employers.”
Every campaign gimmick, of course, comes with a potential downside.
Murphy’s work experience feature invited a ready dig from the McMahon campaign’s Isaac: “I think it is good to see Chris Murphy doing some real work for the first time in his life.”