Vince McMahon has not, at least publicly, played a major role in wife and World Wrestling Entertainment co-founder Linda’s U.S. Senate campaign this year.
But suddenly in these final days of her race with Democrat Richard Blumenthal, Vince is making plenty of noise: He and WWE went on the offensive after Democrats launched a new ad criticizing Linda’s tenure as CEO; Vince unsuccessfully invited First Lady Michelle Obama to visit WWE’s Stamford HQ while she was in town fund-raising for Blumenthal; WWE launched it’s own campaign urging fans to “stand up” for the company in the face of political attacks from Linda’s critics and defended its reputation in television commercials; and Vince filed a lawsuit this week against Democratic Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz after it was reported her office was considering classifying WWE-merchandise as campaign-related and barring it from polling places on Election Day Tuesday.
And then today Vince announced that to celebrate his company’s “victory” over Bysiewicz, WWE will hand out WWE merchandise near select Connecticut poll locations on Election Day.
Plus there is a WWE fan appreciation night scheduled in Hartford for Saturday and a Smackdown event in Bridgeport on Tuesday night as the final voters head to the polls.
This got me wondering, how much of Vince is too much?
Linda has been running on her executive experience building a company the couple purchased from her father-in-law in the early 1980s into an international entertainment empire.
And yet while many voters are impressed with her background, some observers attributed her recent drop in the polls at least in part to questions raised about the company by her opponent and the media. And Vince is a controversial, larger-than-life personality whose activities in and out of the ring have provided fodder for the Blumenthal camp.
So I phoned five Republicans – current GOP Chairman Chris Healy, former Chairman Chris DePino, state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, state House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, and ex-U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, whom Linda defeated in their party’s primary – and asked them to weigh in on Vince’s recent flurry of activity.
Healy: “Vince McMahon is his own cat and he’s going to do things in the best interests of his company, like anyone would. Anytime someone is trying to set the record straight and sticking up for his wife, that always helps … A lot of people will probably give him credit for that (and) for finding a way to protect his brand.”
DePino: “The truth is I think it’s a huge mistake on the WWE’s part to engage in a political election through their fan base … I am sure while it might be legal, I don’t think the public really has a stomach for it. I think it’s an error on his part, only because I think it could turn around and really have the opposite effect … Most of those folks who are probably going to be impressed with it are already voting for her.”
McKinney: “I don’t think people are going to make up their minds based on what someone’s spouse does. I think the entire discussion is unfortunate because it means we’re not talking about issues. And I lay the blame on Susan Bysiewicz, who came out with such an assault on the First Amendment … I don’t think it’s a good thing for the candidate, I don’t think it’s a good thing for the process when we’re talking about issues unrelated to what’s important for our country.”
Cafero: “He’s very proud of his wife, protective of her, and he’s very proud of his business and protective thereof. That’s what you’re seeing. The question remains, that’s all cute on a personal level, how does this play out in politics? That remains to be seen. There are some people that love (WWE). I’ve seen her association with WWE has drawn crowds, fans, admirers. And then there’s some people turned off and repulsed by it. It remains to be seen on Tuesday which are more of those people. (But) you don’t want outside distractions. So if all of a sudden a husband or spouse is stealing the headlines, that’s not cool.”
Simmons: “Now I can wear my WWE sweatshirt into the polling place! I think (Vince) is pushing his luck. The Secretary of the State made a terrible mistake … She reversed herself on this issue and now has taken the right position, which is there’s no conflict (wearing WWE merchandise to vote). But maybe Vince McMahon is going to make a jerk of himself and push the issue and I don’t think that’s going to help his wife. If Vince McMahon wants to help his wife he should stay in the dark room where he’s been for the last eight months.”
Tuesday is not the only important date next week for the McMahons and the WWE. On Thursday the company is scheduled to release it’s 3rd quarter results. Vince will hold a conference call to discuss the topic.