Chris Shays was right.
Back in July and August, he said repeatedly that Linda McMahon could not win a general election in Connecticut. She didn’t.
In an interview with The Hartford Courant in mid-July, Shays said that McMahon, who has never held public office, lacks experience in government and in dealing with the major issues facing the nation. He added that he believed she was “clueless’’ on various issues, including national defense and the recent uprisings in Syria.
“No one can envision her winning the general election – not Karl Rove, not Dick Morris, not Frank Luntz,’’ Shays told The Courant in an interview. “No one can envision her winning the general election.’’
Rove, the longtime political strategist for President George W. Bush who is known as “the architect,” held a fundraiser for Shays at a private home in Greenwich. Morris, a longtime Connecticut resident and one-time strategist for President Bill Clinton, is now a commentator on the Fox News Channel. Luntz, who grew up in West Hartford, is a well-known pollster and Republican strategist.
Shays repeatedly criticized McMahon, but the criticisms increased as the two rivals headed toward the August 14 Republican primary.
The problem, Shays said, was that Democrats and independents will not vote for McMahon in the same way that they voted against her in the 2010 general election when she lost by 12 percentage points in a year when Republicans swept to victory across the country. A moderate Republican who attracted independent voters when he served in Congress for 21 years, Shays said he had the qualifications and vote-getting ability to win in November.
“A Senate seat is a terrible thing to waste, and if she were to win the primary, it would be a huge waste because it will go to [Democrats] Chris Murphy or Susan Bysiewicz,’’ Shays said at the time.
Shays added that the Republicans needed to win a statewide race in order to break the Democrats’ hold on state government. He noted that Connecticut Republicans had held seats in Congress dating back to when Lowell P. Weicker served in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1960s. Republican Stewart McKinney held the Fourth District Congressional seat for 17 years until 1987, and Shays served for 21 years until losing to Greenwich Democrat Jim Himes in 2008. Shays was the last remaining U.S. House Republican in New England.
“It is not healthy for the state of Connecticut to have two senators from the same party and five Congressmen from the same party, and a governor and four other elected [constitutional officers],’’ Shays said. “There’s nothing healthy about that. It’s not good for our state. It’s not good for our country.’’
Shays said flatly that he could have won in November.
“I believe my experience and my knowledge and the guts I’ve shown in Washington trumps her money any day of the week,” he said.
Shays said that McMahon’s strategy in the August primary would not help her in the November election.
“She’s not going to be able to hide from the press indefinitely,” Shays said at the time. “She’s really clueless on so many issues. I mean, remarkably clueless. I thought that, having been in this for four years now, that she would understand the issues, and she doesn’t seem to.”
He added, “She didn’t have an answer for Syria. Then she said it’s all about creating jobs at home. Creating jobs back home has nothing to do with Syria. But that was her response.”