From the studios of NBC-Connecticut this morning:
Anyone who thought they were going to see a transformation of Dick Blumenthal into some sort of whacky, out-of-the-box, funny guy with the witty quip at the ready was sorely disappointed. The same can be said for those who thought Republican Linda McMahon might answer a question. The debate Monday night at the Bushnell Theatre in Hartford was pretty much as advertised in front of a full house and FOX News Channel moderator Brett Baier.
Blumenthal was wonkish, unanimated, reserved and clearly ready to turn his 20-plus years as a public servant into at least six as a US Senator. McMahon was aggressive, on-point and to admit unapologetically that many criticisms of her and her business—the WWE wrestling empire—are true but that she is a job creator who is not a politician. And it’s that last quality that she is counting on to carry her to Washington, DC.
The sound bites from the face off were Blumenthal saying “Now that we are in good [economic] times, she [McMahon] is hiring.” Makes one wonder what economy he’s been watching. And then there was McMahon nearly boiling over when Blumenthal repeatedly questioned her commitment to not eliminating the minimum wage. She turned, pointed at him and said, “What you just said is a lie.” Seems it didn’t take too many acting classes for McMahon to kick that guy in the crotch in the wrestling ring—she seemed ready to do it to Blumenthal.
Blumenthal pointed out that McMahon benefitted from $10 million in state tax credits while laying off 10-percent of her workforce and pocketing tens of millions of dollars. She didn’t deny it. She retorted with the fact that the WWE has created 52 jobs since then. 52 jobs for $10 million? What kind of an investment is that? He also got her to admit that WWE merchandise is manufactured overseas, costing the country jobs.
One thing that did stand out was McMahon refusal or incapability to answer the questions that were asked. On two questions—health care and the influence of the tea party movement—McMahon didn’t answer despite being given two chances to do so by the questioners.
If one defines the “winner” of the debate as the candidate who picked up the most votes from it, then Blumenthal was the winner. He has endured criticism by some from his own party and certainly some independents were on the fence. The attorney general finished strong and left viewers with serious questions about McMahon’s business record.
In the end, it all comes down to a stark choice: A tried, tested and proven government leader or a businesswoman who claims to have created jobs but who has no political experience. With this volatile and mercurial electorate, there’s really no telling where the voters will come down.