Why Linda frustrates the Tea Party or “Everybody is flailing trying to figure out who Linda McMahon is.”

As much as Democrat Chris Murphy wants to tie Linda McMahon, his Republican opponent for the U.S. Senate, to the Tea Party, she doesn’t make it too easy.

For every example the Murphy folks have of McMahon seemingly kissing up to the more right-leaning members of the Connecticut GOP (like saying at a Tea Party forum in April she would like to establish sunset provisions for Social Security), there are more examples of the candidate attempting to distance herself from conservative orthodoxy by making promises about what she won’t cut.

For someone who wants to go to Washington and take on federal spending, McMahon sure has declared plenty of areas off limits – Social Security and Medicare, defense spending, and, as we reported today, food stamps and the social safety net.

Murphy’s camp will argue it’s all a ploy to win blue Connecticut and McMahon will arrive in Washington and shed her moderate costume for Tea Party duds.

Oops. Wrong Tea Party…

That’s more like it…

And yet if you’re a member of the Tea Party, you may feel more comfortable with McMahon than Murphy, but you’re also frustrated that she has not offered more specifics when it comes to shrinking government.

At least that was the case when I spoke to Tanya Bachand, a Tea Party organizer in Connecticut, for today’s story about McMahon’s defense of food stamps.

Bachand had some trouble identifying what she believes McMahon will cut if elected and wished the candidate would be bolder and not “soft-pedal” her responses.

“I get frustrated with both of them (McMahon and Murphy) in that they talk in these sound bites and absolutes, like ‘I want to preserve defense jobs in Connecticut,'” Bachand said. “Neither of them is really talking about cuts.”

Why isn’t McMahon?

“I think she’s afraid of offending people and of how Democrats are going to spin it,” Bachand said.

Or perhaps McMahon is serious about protecting a variety of constituencies – seniors and the disabled, low income residents, the defense industry – and really is the moderate she claims to be.

As one prominent Republican told me recently, “Everybody is flailing trying to figure out who Linda McMahon is.”

Brian Lockhart