ENFIELD, Conn.â€”There are few Connecticut voters who don’t know Linda McMahon, thanks to the three years and $62 million the Republican has spent campaigning for Senate this year and in 2010.
But despite all that time and money, a persistently large number of them still don’t like the former professional wrestling executive, polls show. About 40% of Connecticut voters have told pollsters over the past two years that they have an unfavorable view of Ms. McMahon.
Those numbers haven’t budged even as she has applied a softer touch in this Senate race than she did in 2010, playing up her small-town North Carolina roots and the struggles, including bankruptcy, that she and her husband face.
As she appears poised to coast to a victory over former Rep. Chris Shays in the Republican primary Tuesday, Ms. McMahon’s ability to make voters like her remains an obstacle in the general election for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Many voters still remember the sustained attacks on the business she and her husband built, World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., which was portrayed in political ads as violent, misogynistic and uncaring about its employees.
“She has spent the better part of a year working on this. So my question is, does it stick when Democrats do the inevitable and start running the WWE ads again? And we just don’t know that yet,” said Jennifer Duffy, an editor at the Cook Political Report in Washington, a firm that analyzes political races.
The likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Chris Murphy, isn’t as well known as Ms. McMahon, but he doesn’t carry the same baggage. A poll conducted late last month by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, found that 31% of voters hold an unfavorable view of him, while 38% held a favorable view and 30% didn’t have an opinion.
The same poll showed 48% of voters held an unfavorable view of Ms. McMahon. Her numbers, however, are much better with independents: 51% favorable to 38% unfavorable. A June Quinnipiac poll put her at 45% favorable to 38% unfavorable. Those negatives remain stubbornly high, though.
Democrats appear eager to keep reminding voters about Ms. McMahon’s business record.
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