Wrestling tycoon Linda McMahon handily won the Connecticut Republican primary for Senate Tuesday, besting her opponents, former congressman Rob Simmons and venture capitalist Peter Schiff, by more than 20 points. She'll face the state's Democratic Attorney General Rick Blumenthal, whom she currently trails by 10 points, in November.
Her family's company, World Wrestling Entertainment, has a violent and tawdry past that included depictions of necrophilia, stripping, and beating up women in the wrestling ring, though the show has been tidied to a PG rating more recently. Nevertheless, Republicans sense that McMahon has a chance to upset Blumenthal and are backing her-even culturally conservative Republicans.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., speaking with Fox's Greta van Susteren Tuesday night, complimented McMahon. "She is one tough businesswoman, and she is no-nonsense, and I really respect her," he said. "Obviously, she's in a business that is entertainment, and edgy entertainment, but she's the business side of that relationship. Her husband, Vince, was the showman side of the business, and she'll be a very serious candidate. I think she'll be an excellent candidate. She fits Connecticut very, very well."
Businesswoman McMahon has also been in the ring-participating in the cheesy and sometimes more debasing wrestlings acts. One broadcast depicts Linda McMahon fake-kicking a man in the groin in the wrestling ring while her husband Vince and daughter stand by cheering. "My wife, Linda McMahon!" he proclaims, holding her arm up in victory, as the man pretends to writhe on the floor. In another match she pretends to slap her grown daughter Stephanie to the ground.
In campaign ads McMahon describes World Wrestling Entertainment as a vehicle of job creation. The head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Sen. John Cornyn, called WWE a "successful international corporation" in a committee memo hailing her nomination. McMahon has spent about $22 million of her own money thus far, a historically massive amount. Democrats are already seizing on her ties to WWE, saying a vote for her would be a "slap in the face to Connecticut women."
Minnesota, Georgia, and Colorado also held primaries. Attention swiveled to the Colorado Democratic primary for Senate as incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet retained his spot on the ballot despite a fierce challenge. The White House had backed Bennet, who was appointed to fill now-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's seat. But he had to fight off former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who had the backing of former President Bill Clinton. Bennet also had to contend late in the race with a highly critical story in The New York Times about his time as superintendent of Denver public schools. The story alleged that Bennet cost the system millions because he didn't understand a financial deal he made.
On the Republican side, With returns counted from about three-quarters of the state's precincts, Ken Buck had 52 percent of the vote and former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton was pulling 48 percent. The two sparred over ownership of the outsider's credentials. Both also have ties to tea party activists, although Buck expressed frustration at one point, asking aloud for someone to tell those "dumba---s" to stop asking him about Obama's birth certificate while he was being recorded. He later expressed regret for the remarks.
In other races Tuesday:
GEORGIA-Former Rep. Nathan Deal led ex-Secretary of State Karen Handel narrowly in a Republican gubernatorial runoff that was so close it could take days to resolve. The two vied for the right to take on former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes.
MINNESOTA-Former Sen. Mark Dayton narrowly won the Democratic nomination for governor. He will face conservative State Rep. Tom Emmer, the easy winner of the GOP line on the ballot. Democrats have not captured the statehouse in nearly a quarter-century.
CONNECTICUT-With Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell retiring in Connecticut, voters also settled a pair of contested gubernatorial primaries. Tom Foley, a businessman and former U.S. ambassador to Ireland, won a three-way race for the Republican nomination. Former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy defeated businessman Ned Lamont for the Democratic nomination. It was Lamont's second try for statewide office and far quieter than his first. He won a Senate primary four years ago in one of the standout races of the 2006 campaign, upsetting Sen. Joe Lieberman, who then won a new term in the fall as an independent.
COLORADO-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper was unopposed for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Republican Dan Maes, a businessman, edged out former Rep. Scott McInnis after a campaign in which each suffered self-inflicted wounds. McInnis has acknowledged receiving $300,000 as part of a foundation fellowship for a water study report that was partly plagiarized. Maes has paid $17,500 for violating campaign finance laws. The spectacle prompted former Rep. Tom Tancredo to jump into the race as an independent, which in turn led state party chairman Dick Wadhams to say it would be difficult if not impossible to defeat the Democrat this fall.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.