Connecticut Republicans threw an expensive party in Hartford at the convention center and we learned …
1. Party conventions tell us very little, even in a year of two hotly-contested Congressional races. It will be August before more mainstream party members reveal who Republicans they prefer running in the most winnable races. More than ever, this convention was a reminder that these central party-controlled events are little more than reminders of what once was.
2. In a rare show of political practicality, 5th District delegates endorsed state Sen. Andrew Roraback. He’s not just the convention favorite, he could be the best chance the party has at cracking the Democrats’ stranglehold over our representatives in Congress. As more than one Republican insider told me, “Andrew can win in the general election.” That’s if he gets there — at least two opponents are planning a primary.
3. Chris Shays is still alive, but it’s still not clear whether he can make a race of it. It was no surprise that Linda McMahon steamrolled to the convention endorsement. This time, she cut a low-key presence at the convention, even casually greeting delegates at the door. Shays won the roughly one third of the delegates to show he was viable, but McMahon has launched a savvy campaign designed to peel off those women who refused to support her in the past. At his modest pre-vote party, supporters told me of plans to get ugly with Linda, reviving her WWE past and questions about her rags-to-riches narrative. It’s worth nothing that strategy failed with Rob Simmons. Democrats, meanwhile, prefer a race against Linda, which would accentuate Chris Murphy as a moderate and experienced candidate. It will be hard for McMahon to look like something fresh running against the youthful Murphy.
4. Tote bags seem to be the most popular swag items. Linda McMahon also thinks that “Women for Linda” T-shirts may be the thing to crack that block of female voters who have no interest in supporting her.
5. Insiders advising Shays and McMahon say both candidates must spend more one-on-one time with voters. For McMahon, it means breaking out of the robotic image her handlers created in 2010 when she stuffed our mailboxes with glossy narratives that fell flat. She’s out to show voters — affluent Republican women who vote in Fairfield County, mostly – that she’s got a heart and soul not forged in the crass camp of the wrestling ring. At this point, McMahon looks like a candidate who learned something in 2010. Strangely, she also appears not ready to mix it up with the media. That won’t be a problem for Shays, who sought out reporters and shook hands like a candidate at the factory gate. Ironically, Shays must remind potential supporters that he’s not some unpredictable RINO but the savvy GOP playmaker he was during the mid-1990s.