Cram session? McMahon agrees to meet with newspaper editorial boards

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Linda McMahon, left, talks with seniors as a tracker for opponent Chris Murphy films her, center, at the Naugatuck Senior center people in Naugatuck, Conn., Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Widely criticized by both Democrats and even fellow Republicans for freezing out newspaper editorial boards during the primary phase of the Senate race, Linda McMahon is hitting the defrost button.

The Republican Senate contender will sit down with editors and opinion writers from “several” media outlets during the final month of what polls show to be a dead heat between the co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Democrat Christopher Murphy, McMahon’s campaign confirms to Hearst Connecticut Newspapers.

“We’re doing several editorial boards beginning this week,” Corry Bliss, McMahon’s campaign manager, said Monday in an interview. “Linda looks forward to sharing her views with editorial boards and explaining to them why she is a far superior choice for Connecticut than Congressman Murphy.”

A rite of the campaign season that can be a baptism by fire for unprepared candidates, the custom is for newspaper editorial boards to bring candidates in for an extended question-and-answer session before making endorsements in races.

Reporters are NOT part of the editorial boards, though sometimes they will sit in on the proceedings and write a story about the positions of a candidate.

McMahon bypassed editorial boards leading up to the Aug. 14 GOP primary that she won in a landslide over former Congressman Christopher Shays, who did meet with opinion writers and editors.

McMahon’s opponents say that the wrestling mogul doesn’t have the chops to delve into policy nuances for an hour or more with the state’s media outlets.

During the first of four debates between McMahon and her opponent, Murphy said that there is no comparison between himself and McMahon when it comes to media accessibility.

“Linda McMahon has refused to meet with editorial boards,” Murphy said.  “I’ve been very willing to do so.”

McMahon will sit down with the editorial board of the Hartford Courant this Friday, according to Bliss.

When McMahon ran for Senate in 2010 and lost, the Courant endorsed her opponent, Democrat Richard Blumenthal. The vast majority of newspapers in the state picked Blumenthal over McMahon.

Bliss said the campaign was still trying to work out details for an editorial board sitdown with Hearst Connecticut Newspapers, which owns the Connecticut Post, Danbury News-Times, The Advocate of Stamford and Greenwich Time, as well as seven weeklies.

McMahon’s campaign manager would not say if she has turned down any invitations from other media outlets.

The conventional wisdom is that McMahon could blacklist some newspapers and political journalism websites with whom her campaign has had its share of run-ins.

The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, which has been critical of McMahon’s stewardship of the WWE and her wrestling background, seems to be an unlikely candidate for an audience with the candidate.

Candidates will often be accompanied to a newspaper editorial board session by an aide and a binder with their policy positions and record of accomplishments.

Think of it as an oral examination, only this isn’t Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) in “Back to School.”

Neil Vigdor