Blumenthal, McMahon Spar in First Connecticut Senate Debate

The candidates for U.S. Senate in Conneticut are butting heads over the economy and character. In a debate last night in Hartford, Repubican Linda McMahon portrayed herself as an entrepreneur who has created more than 600 jobs. Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Richard Blumenthal promoted his career in public service working as the state's Attorney General. Colin McEnroe, host of "The Colin McEnroe Show" on WNPR and a columnist for The Hartford Courant, watched the debate.

So this was the first time they debated. It sounds like no one was really pulling any punches. What was the tone?

Colin McEnroe: There was a lot of jabbing, but there wasn't a whole lot of blood spilled on the stage. And it wasn't a situation where you could discern tempers mounting. This was a pretty controlled set of attacks by each candidate.

So let's talk about their experience. We have Linda McMahon. She's the CEO of the World Wrestling Entertainment Group. And Richard Blumenthal -- who's the state's long-term attorney general. They also have very different views on the role of government. Let's listen to a bit of tape right now.

McMahon: Government does not create jobs. It's very simple how you create jobs. An entrepreneur takes a risk.

Blumenthal: And I don't differ. I'm not going to be an entrepreneur as a senator. I will do my best to assist entrepreneurs.

So Colin, how did their views differ on the economy?

CM: You heard a little part of it. And that was actually a half-way decent line for Blumenthal when he said he's not really running for entrepreneur; he's running for senator. It showed up more starkly in the issues surrounding the bailout, the so-called TARP bailout -- which Blumenthal said he would oppose; that he has steadfastly publicly opposed. McMahon said she actually supported the TARP or thought it was the necessary thing to do at that moment based on the information available. That's sort of a inversion of typical Democrat and Republican positions, to have the Democrat opposing the TARP.

I was going to ask about one of the big issues for the Blumenthal campaign has been allegations that he mis-represented his service in Vietnam. He was asked about that last night and again, we have some more tape.

Blumenthal: On a few occassions out of a hundreds when I commented on it, I described it inaccurately. And I regret it. It was not intentional.

Do you think he's done enough to address this issue?

CM: Well, I think the issue has kind of run out of steam in a way. It started last May and I think it's done all the damage it's ever going to do to him. And it did a lot of damage to him, but there isn't a huge group of undecided voters in this race anyway. It's three to four percent in polls. And I can't imagine that any of those undecided voters haven't already thought about the Vietnam issue. I just don't see it tilting a lot of votes at this point.

Now for McMahon, she had the opportunity to explain her affiliation with the Tea Party.

McMahon: My view on the Tea Party is that I've also met with the Tea Party. Two or three factions of the Tea Party. And I have found that their committment and their passion to reduce spending, reducing the defecit, making sure government is reduced and doesn't continue to grow. I have found that we are in lock step on those particular issues. And I've enjoyed the meetings that I've had with them.

So is this resonating with the voters up in Conneticut?

CM: Well, it took a little bit of work for the moderator to coax an actual answer out of her about how she felt about the Tea Party. I think a bigger issue for her -- that kept coming up all night -- was how the WWE, her company, operates. Their outsourcing of manufacturing jobs for their merchandise to other countries. What they lobby for in front of Congress. And last minute, Blumenthal brought up steroids as well. And you know, those things are still a little bit of a messy problem for McMahon. It's the same kind of thing. I don't know how many votes are going to change in between now and November about any of them. But afterwards, when she talked to the press, she felt a need to kind of clean up some of the mess that he made about the WWE.

And what about their warchests. I know both of them have campaign commercials advertising that you can actually watch here in New York City.

CM: I have never seen a media campaign in Conneticut anything like Linda McMahon's. It's almost like a blizzard that's so vast and bright that you can barely make out Dick Blumenthal somewhere in the distance waving through the snowdrifts, going "Hey, I'm running for Senate!" He doesn't have the kind of resources that she has. We don't really know exactly -- there's no quarterly report avaiable right now -- but he's certainly been out-spent at least five to one and maybe more than that.

So what will you be watching now from the campaigns as we count down to election day?

CM: Dick Blumenthal was always a very formidable politician in this state. A guy with a 70 percent approval rate. He was always viewed as completely unbeatable in any race that he ran and I haven't really seen that guy that much. I've had a sense that he's maybe over-handled by the people from out of town who kind of came in and took him over. And maybe even getting him away from the thing he does reasonably well. He's not a great campaigner, no matter what. But I haven't even seen the good campaigner. I'm wondering if he could maybe get out from under the umbrella of the people managing him and over-handling him right now and really connect with the people the way he's somewhat capable of doing.