A Senate Upset Brewing In Connecticut?

Two years ago, Linda McMahon, formerly the CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, lost a Senate bid to Richard Blumenthal by a rather decisive twelve percentage points. Considering that only two years earlier, Barack Obama had defeated John McCain in the Nutmeg State by some 300,000 votes, this really wasn’t much of a surprise. Connecticut has been a reliably blue state for decades and hadn’t sent a Republican to the Senate since Lowell Weicker was defeated by Joe Lieberman in 1988 (before that, the last Republican Senator from Connecticut was a guy named Prescott Bush.) Indeed, McMahon was never really competitive in the polls in the race against Blumenthal. This time, though, things seem to be substantially different:

Linda McMahon, the GOP nominee for Connecticut’s Senate race, leads Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy narrowly in a poll released Tuesday

Indeed, 49 percent of likely voters back McMahon, while 46 percent back Murphy, reports a new Quinnipiac poll.

Notably, McMahon leads among men, 54 percent to 42 percent, while Murphy leads among women, 50 percent to 46 percent.

“The poll is good news for Linda McMahon. In our first likely voter poll in Connecticut, McMahon has a 3-point advantage in a too-close-to-call race. Her edge is due to her double-digit lead among independent voters and being close among women, a group she struggled with in her 2010 run,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz.

In 2010, McMahon was defeated in a Connecticut Senate race by Richard Blumenthal.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama leads Mitt Romney in Connecticut by a relatively narrow 7 points, 52 percent to 45 percent.

Whenever you see a reliably blue or red state seeming to tilt even slightly in the other direction, it raises eyebrows. Connecticut hasn’t voted for a Republican for President for 24 years, and failed to re-elect its last Republican Senator at that same time. While the GOP has had some more success at the state level, having held the Governor’s Office from 1995 through 2011, for example, in national politics Connecticut has been reliably Republican Democratic for 30 years. Is that changing, even just slightly?

It’s possible, of course, that we’re looking at a bad poll, and at least in the Presidential numbers it’s worth noting that 12% of the people who say they’re supporting either Romney or Obama say they may change their minds. Additionally, the fall campaign hasn’t started yet and the numbers are likely to change once McMahon and Murphy start debating. Nonetheless, McMahon seems to be in a far better position than she was two years ago.

One final note, Quinnipiac poll director says that he doesn’t think we’ll see either of the Presidential campaigns putting significant money into Connecticut even if it is closer than expected. He’s likely correct there. The Romney campaign would be more likely to invest its dollars in the handful of battleground states that will actually decide the election. Nonetheless, if Connecticut is somehow a toss-up in October, the Obama Campaign is likely to have something to worry about.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. al-Ameda says:

    It’s possible, of course, that we’re looking at a bad poll, and at least in the Presidential numbers it’s worth noting that 12% of the people who say they’re supporting either Romney or Obama say they may change their minds.

    You know, for all the complaints that people have about the accuracy of polling, I generally find polls to be a very useful, and for the most part accurate, snapshot of where a political race stands at any given moment. The people who most often complain are of course those who find their candidate trailing.

    McMahon is right in line with today’s GOP – intemperate and immoderate. Honestly, people do not want political cooperation in Congress, they want scorched earth political victories. Voters say they hate the distemper and lack of cooperation, but it’s not true, voters are electing people who are not interested in anything but all-or-nothing solutions.

  2. Davebo says:

    While the GOP has had some more success at the state level, having held the Governor’s Office from 1995 through 2011, for example, in national politics Connecticut has been reliably Republican Democrat for 30 years. Is that changing, even just slightly?

  3. Anderson says:

    Okay, so you’re citing a Quinnipiac poll re: the Senate race, but Obama leads by 7 according to the same poll? With a LV filter?

    I don’t see how that’s even remotely something to worry about. If Obama were +7 in Ohio or Virginia, that would be hugely awesome (or not, depending on your party).

  4. Steve M. says:

    So Dems are going to win a Senate seat in Missouri but lose two in New England. Pathetic.

  5. C. Clavin says:

    As a resident of Connecticut I see no difference between Lieberman and McMahon.
    All it is really going to prove is that you can buy a Senate seat.
    Which begs the question…why would you spend so much of your own money on a Senate seat unless you saw some sort of profit in it? And what profit does McMahon see?

  6. Rob in CT says:

    I make no predictions. I will say that McMahon is absolutely blitzing us with ads. She did that the last time too, and lost anyway.

    It’s hard to picture Blumenthal as a better candidate than Murphy, and McMahon is the same package as before. As before, you have an open seat, with the Dems trying to replace a retiring and not-very-well-liked incumbent. It’s hard to imagine that McMahon has better name recognition now than before. The message and issue positions are basically the same, unless I’m missing something. So, to the extent this poll holds up, I’ll go with it’s the economy, stupid. CT has a typical but I think exaggerated split between its urban and suburban/rural areas. The cities vote overwhelmingly D and the towns are largely R. Much depends on turnout in Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, Stamford, Norwalk…

    As for trends, the gubernatorial election 2 years ago was close. Tom Foley almost won. I even waffled and considered voting for him, just to balance things out (CT’s legislature is overwhelmingly D, as always).

  7. Rob in CT says:

    Ah, googled up some articles and the name recognition thing matters… as a negative for Murphy. I’d heard of him, but then I’m an OTB commentor (which means, in the context of US politics, I’m a political junkie).

    That makes some sense. Blumenthal was Attorney General and was very much a camera hogging self-promoter (which is why I held my nose while voting for him). Murphy’s a US rep.

    The thing that could save Murphy is people turning out to vote Obama and voting for Murphy too. If that happens.

    Not that this means anything, but it did amuse me (as someone who finds nearly all political ads annoying and uninformative):

    Among the likely voters, 42 percent say McMahon’s commercials are more annoying than informative, while 36 percent say Murphy’s ads are more annoying than informative.

  8. Tsar Nicholas says:

    McMahon in the Senate seems quite far fetched, but I guess stranger things have happened.

    In any event, let’s go ahead and assume arguendo that Q is not smoking from the Zogby or Datamar pipes and ergo that that poll is not completely ludicrous. Isn’t there a giant, neon, flashing elephant in the room? Obama in 2008 won CT 61-38. CT is one of the loopiest, wealthiest states in captivity. That poll puts Obama at 52-45. That’s a meltdown. I have a hard time believing that’s actually going on, but if it is happening, in CT of all places, then Katy bar the door because we’re looking at a new president come January.

  9. Rob in CT says:

    There are actually two polls out with the same result. Quinnipiac and also Rasmussen. The last poll showing Murphy up was done by PPP in July. That leads me to suspect this is at least somewhat real.

    CT is one of the loopiest, wealthiest states in captivity

    CT has a lot of wealthy towns that lean R, sometimes heavily so. 2008 was a wave year, and a lot of normal R voters either crossed over or just stayed out of it (the R brand was badly damaged and the idea of a black Democratic president doesn’t terrify people around here) whereas turnout was really high in the cities which are heavily D. If each of those factors regress to more normal levels, it would go a long way toward explaining narrowing from 61-38 to 52-45. Then throw in the economy, and there ya go.

  10. bandit says:

    Has Murphy started lying about his service in Viet Nam yet? That should swing the tide.

  11. Jay Dubbs says:

    Unlike most of the battle grounds state, my guess is that voters in CT (of which I used to be one) have not put much thought into the 2012 election yet. The GOP primary was a non-event and I doubt that Murphy has spent much time with advertsing yet, plus unlike us in the battleground state, there has probably been littel or no political ads other than McMahon’s.

    If McMahon is still ahead in mid-September, this might be a thing. Until them, meh.

  12. Rob in CT says:

    @Jay Dubbs:

    Yeah, I haven’t seen/heard Murphy ads. To be fair, I rarely watch TV or listen to the radio, so I’m not a good source for that. I also will turn off a political ad the moment I recognize that it’s a political ad. I’ve had to do that a handful of times with ads for Linda, but none that I can recall for Murphy.

    We’ll see. This is a pretty blue state.