No, this is the biggest spending year we’ve ever seen in Connecticut politics. I would say by far. The 2006 Lieberman-Lemont race was very expensive. Each person spent over $20 million in that race by the time it was over. But we’re still fairly early in the cycle here, and McMahon herself has spent over $20 million already, and is on her way to what she says could be $50 million. Some people tell me it could be even more than that.
But McMahon hasn’t locked up the GOP primary yet, she’s still got to beat Rob Simmons, who left the race for about two months before coming back into it at the last minute. Were you surprised when he dropped out after the convention?
Well he had announced, before the primary, that if he did not win the convention endorsement in May he would not run in the primary. He probably announced that a time when he thought that he would not lose at the convention. But it turned out that he did lose at the convention to McMahon. He initially said that he was still going to be in the race. And then a day or two later, he had a press conference and said that he was getting out. Then, two or three weeks before the primary, he got back in. He’s had many television ads running up to the primary; he’s on television seemingly just as often as anybody else in the race, in the final two or three weeks. But he was not on television at all for a two-month period about May 25 to July 25. All of June, he was never on TV at all and not that many people were talking about him.
Is the new exposure helping?
He’s moving up in the polls. But in the most recent Quinnipiac poll on Monday, McMahon is still ahead of Simmons by twenty-two points. There is seven percent undecided, and that’s not a very big undecided. You have McMahon in the lead, Rob Simmons in second, and Peter Schiff, a nationally known investor, author, and Wall Street pundit, in third.
How has Schiff positioned himself?
Well, Schiff has a semi-large national following. So he has a lot of supporters outside of Connecticut, and that’s probably why he’s in third place in Connecticut. He has been running some negative ads about McMahon, showing footage of McMahon from her wrestling days. He is known among the CNBC crowd, and is on television on a regular basis making prognostications about the economy. But, he’s never really been involved in Connecticut politics at all. He didn’t have the start; he didn’t have a huge base of support because he’d never held public office in Connecticut. I think he was viewed more as a national figure as opposed to a Connecticut figure.
The Courant endorsed Simmons in the Republican Senate primary. What can you tell us about the paper’s approach to endorsements?
The good thing is I don’t get involved in any of the endorsements. They don’t ask me and I don’t ask them and so I stay out of it. But, as you can imagine, there’s a whole group of people all the way up to the publisher who get involved in the endorsements. I did not go to any of the editorial endorsement meetings. To my knowledge they did have separate meetings with McMahon and Schiff and Simmons.
How has McMahon handled the media as such a newcomer?
She has not had a traditional relationship with the media. In other words, she does not call general press conferences to answer questions from ten or twelve different reporters at the same time. She’s never done that, to my knowledge. She does go to editorial meetings, she does agree to interviews. But she doesn’t travel around the state and call press conferences. To my knowledge, she has never been at the state capitol for a press conference. It’s a traditional venue; would-be candidates come to the state capitol and hold press conferences on various issues. That’s just never happened.
Does Simmons have a more traditional relationship with the media?