McMahon, Murphy in Wild Debate as Senate Race Tightens

Tuesday, 16 Oct 2012 11:03 AM

By Andra Varin

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The third Connecticut Senate debate turned into a smackdown when the cheers and jeers of the raucous audience drowned out both candidates.

Republican Linda McMahon, former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO, and Chris Murphy, a Democrat who has represented Connecticut’s 5th District in Congress for three terms, are vying for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman. The 2000 Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Lieberman is now an independent, but caucuses with the Democrats.

After Monday night’s debate, Murphy accused his rival of packing the Garde Arts Center in New London with her own supporters.

“Linda McMahon brought a bunch of people here to try to shout me down off the stage because she’s afraid of debating,” Murphy said, according to The Day newspaper, one of the event’s sponsors. “She didn’t fare too well in the first two debates, so her tactic tonight was to try and bring a bunch of people who would disrupt the debates.”

McMahon — who was also interrupted by the audience, although not as often as Murphy — shrugged off the allegation.

“They seem to be very supportive on both sides,” McMahon said. “It was a very lively crowd.”

Polls show a tight race. Murphy was up by five points in the latest Rasmussen poll, but the most recent Quinnipiac poll gave McMahon a slight, one-point edge.

But McMahon’s deep pockets alone have given Democrats reason to fear that the normally blue state could vote in a Republican this time. A multimillionaire, McMahon, 64, has raised $14.1 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Murphy, 39, has drummed up $5.6 million.

Murphy has more experience in public service, but McMahon gained recognition among non-wrestling fans in the 2010 Senate race. She ended up losing to Democrat Richard Blumenthal, but learned some lessons that have served her well this time around.

"She has kept the race very, very close," Democratic strategist Matthew Hennessy, who is not involved in the Murphy campaign, told The Wall Street Journal. "She has made herself viable when a lot of people have written her off."

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