HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Former wrestling executive Linda McMahon said Friday she has no regrets about spending nearly $50 million on her failed bid for Connecticut's Senate seat and is not ruling out a return trip to the campaign trail.
In a telephone interview Friday with The Associated Press, the Republican first-time nominee said she plans to meet with her consultants and analyze the campaign. She said they'll probably conduct post-campaign polling to determine what went wrong and what could have been done differently.
Exit polls showed that the winner, Democrat Richard Blumenthal, received three of every five votes from women despite McMahon's advertising aimed specifically at connecting with female voters.
"That's probably one of the things that we'll take a look at," said McMahon, adding that the polling would help "determine what that push-back was so we could address that." She said she also wants to gauge reaction to some of her ads and mailers.
McMahon would not say whether she plans to run again in 2012, when Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., is up for re-election. When asked about her future plans, McMahon said she is "considering a couple of different directions" and will make a decision after Jan. 1.
She reiterated, however, that she's not returning to World Wrestling Entertainment, where she was the company's CEO until last fall.
"It was a wonderful career. I thoroughly loved it. It will always be in my blood, always be a part of me, that's for sure," McMahon said. "But stepping back into an administrative role would just not be the right thing for me now."
If she does run for office again, McMahon said she wouldn't have to spend anywhere near the $50 million she's expected to have spent on this year's Senate race. Based on the 493,158 votes the AP reported McMahon winning, she spent more than $101 per vote — a larger amount per vote than Republican California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, the former eBay chief executive who spent $142 million on her losing effort.
McMahon defended many of her expenses, such as spending tens of thousands of dollars to rent out hotel ballrooms and restaurants. Federal campaign finance reports show $36,000 was spent on a single event at an Enfield hotel to court supporters.
Although she jokes that she underwent her "own version of job creation" by spending so much money on the race, she bristles at accusations that she attempted to buy the Senate seat.
"That just always rubbed me the wrong way, only because I knew how hard I was working," she said. "If you were really just trying to buy the election, I could just have sat back and bought television ads all the time and not ever been out in the marketplace."
McMahon said she made more than 850 campaign stops during her 14-month quest to fill the seat now held by Sen. Chris Dodd. While the media were not informed about most of those events, she maintained that her arms-length relationship with reporters was not intentional.
Yet McMahon was critical of the media, especially outlets in Connecticut, for — in her opinion — not taking Blumenthal to task for misspeaking about his Vietnam record. Her campaign acknowledged helping The New York Times with an article that found Blumenthal had said on several occasions that he served in Vietnam when he served stateside in the Marine Reserve. He apologized and called his remarks unintentional.
"It really did annoy me that he was allowed to justify continually being not truthful about his service over the years and just pretty much apologize and ... he was looked at the other way, especially by the media," McMahon said. "It became a nonevent. For me, that was really big, that someone would be untruthful about service and claim to have misspoken."
McMahon also believes that the WWE was unfairly attacked during the campaign — an opinion shared by her husband, the company's chairman and CEO, Vince McMahon. He launched his own public relations campaign to combat what he considered unfair negative publicity, filed a federal lawsuit to ensure wrestling fans could wear WWE garb to the polls and appeared in a skit that spoofed the race.
Linda McMahon said she didn't have any problem with her husband's actions.
"WWE was so maligned, if you will, all through my campaign that I think the steps that WWE did, just for its own protection for its business, were right and proper," she said.
McMahon chuckled at the speculation that her campaign was a stunt to help the wrestling empire.
"WWE doesn't need any extra publicity," she said.
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