Read what happened when Capitol Bureau Chief Chris Keating talked to former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays and Linda McMahon campaign manager Corry Bliss:
Shays harshly criticized the campaign of McMahon, who defeated Shays in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in August. Bliss was the campaign manager for McMahon, who lost in the general election by 12 percentage points to Democrat Chris Murphy.
Shays said that high-profile operatives made huge amounts of money over the past three years as McMahon spent nearly $100 million in her races in 2010 and 2012.
“The people advising her were thrilled to take her money, but they knew this was a long shot,’’ Shays said. “Corry Bliss, who ran her campaign, basically left Vermont in shambles, and he’s leaving Connecticut in shambles. But he’s got more money. He made more money. Pat Sullivan [a lobbyist and McMahon adviser] basically has made a pile of money at the expense of his fellow Republicans. And it’s just a shame. He’s a talented guy. He stood in the way of Republicans gaining a Senate seat in 2010 and 2012.’’
Shays added, “In the end, she dissed the Republicans. She ran as an independent. She spent $100 million. She thought she could avoid the press, avoid the editorial boards, and just go on TV and buy an election. She was seriously rebuked, but in the process she helped bring down the rest of the ticket. I think most people knew Chris Murphy was not their strongest candidate, but in spite of that, he won. Chris Murphy wasn’t even known in half the state – any more than I was.’’
“Congressman Shays is a classless, bitter sore loser who should do the people of Connecticut a favor and keep his mouth shut and move back to Maryland,’’ Bliss said in an interview. “However, I would like to offer a portion of my salary to be used to pay for the psychiatric care that Congressman Shays desperately needs. And lastly, I know that Congressman Shays has dreams of running for governor, and I will keep my opposition research book under my pillow with the hopes of being able to use it, pro bono, if he launches another failed campaign.’’
Bliss added, “Congressman Shays is an unemployed, classless man who has nothing better to do than sit around and pontificate about other people’s campaigns. In his last campaign, he received 30 percent of the vote, and the campaign before that [in 2008] he was running ads with Obama when his campaign funds were being embezzled.’’
When asked more broadly about the charge by Republicans that McMahon’s campaign had become defined by its spending, Bliss said, “I would just say again I feel sorry for Congressman Shays. I think he obviously has no friend and nothing better to do. If and when he gets the psychiatric care that he needs, he’d be a much happier man. He’s just a bitter, sore loser, and that’s no way to go through life.’’
Unlike Bliss, Sullivan declined to comment about Shays.
Describing McMahon as “clueless’’ about the issues, Shays said he would have spent less money on television commercials and more on briefing books for McMahon.
“I would have spent half the money she did, and I would have said, ‘You are going to know these issues cold,’ ‘’ Shays said. “I would give you a briefing paper every two weeks, and we’re going to quiz you on it. She didn’t want to meet the press. ‘’
Shays was particularly irked that McMahon also ran on the Independent Party line in the recent election.
“As soon as the convention was over, she went for the independent,’’ Shays said. “I was absolutely certain she would run as an independent. Or if she lost the primary, then run as an independent against Chris Murphy and Chris Shays – me. I never felt Linda McMahon had any affection for the Republican Party whatsoever, none. I never saw it before 2010.’’
Regarding running on the Independent line, Shays said, “She goes out and collects signatures. She was going to run, win or lose. When she said that to a reporter and the reporter started asking questions, she said she wouldn’t run as an independent if she lost the primary, but I didn’t believe that for a minute.’’
Shays said he was not surprised by McMahon’s recent efforts to tie herself to President Obama, who carried Connecticut by a wide margin.
“In the last two weeks, the TV ad and the handouts – vote for Barack Obama and Linda McMahon. I could have told you she would do that in July,’’ Shays said. “Linda McMahon made her money by telling stories. She’s a storyteller, and she had a great story. She was a grandmother, and she was Jodi Rell.’’
He also said flatly that he “wouldn’t be surprised’’ if the workers who helped McMahon in the cities had accepted McMahon’s money for distributing literature and then headed to the polls to vote “straight Democrat.’’
“She didn’t win many votes in the cities,’’ Shays said.
Shays said McMahon was never going to receive substantial votes in the cities because they are hard-core Democratic neighborhoods.
“A basic course in Politics 101 is you get the votes in undecided and swing districts,’’ Shays said. “The heavily Democratic districts are in. You can make friends, but you’re not going to get votes. It’s a basic tenet.’’