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Vince and Linda McMahon (AP/Photo by Jessica Hill)

Connecticut SmackDown

Campaign 2010 | Conservative family values voters in the state face a dilemma in choosing a GOP Senate candidate Tuesday

Vince McMahon once pretended to choke his daughter Stephanie with a pipe on television back in 2003 during a staged wrestling match. In another match in 2001, he told a woman to grovel on the floor, bark like a dog, and then take her clothes off. Vince and his wife, Linda, along their children control World Wrestling Entertainment, a billion-dollar professional wrestling company that trades in fake kicks to the groin as well as more lurid, violent fare.

Linda McMahon is running for the Republican nomination in Connecticut's U.S. Senate race, with the primary set for Tuesday. She already has won the backing of the state GOP at its convention in May. Her closest challenger, former CIA analyst, Vietnam veteran, and former congressman Rob Simmons trails McMahon by 17 points, according to a Quinnipiac poll released on Wednesday. A third candidate, businessman Peter Schiff, is 33 points behind McMahon. According to Roll Call, McMahon has spent $22 million of her own money on the race, the fourth most in the history of congressional campaigns.

In recent years, WWE has tamed its show so that it can receive a PG rating on television. But the violence and degradation of women remains, even while 22 percent of its audience are children. McMahon, who stepped down as CEO of WWE when she announced her bid for the Senate, said she ran the "business of the business" while her husband was the "creative genius." She dismisses the wrestling matches as "soap operas."

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Christians like Eric Metaxas, author of the New York Times bestseller Bonhoeffer, said the McMahons have moved the company away from the tamer entertainment of the Hulk Hogan years to "sexualized darkness."

"Let's face it: The desperation of the GOP to win a Senate seat in Connecticut is shocking and ugly," Metaxas wrote in a recent essay. "No one who cares about America should let it stand. Certainly no self-proclaimed conservative should stand for it, and certainly no one who dares call himself a Christian should stand for it."

But Republican family values voters in Connecticut face a dilemma: Choose a businesswoman who has promoted sex and violence in culture or a candidate who supports abortion? McMahon, while pro-abortion, opposes public funding for abortions and supports a ban on partial-birth abortion-appealing stances to social conservatives in socially liberal New England. Simmons, on the other hand, has received a 100 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America and opposes a ban on partial-birth abortion.

The Family Institute of Connecticut has said outright that it does not support Simmons because of his abortion stance, but it hasn't endorsed McMahon either. Peter Wolfgang, who heads up the FIC, told the Stamford Advocate that the group is "torn" about supporting McMahon because WWE has "clearly injected some poison into our popular culture."

State Rep. T.R. Rowe, a Republican and social conservative, threw his support behind McMahon because her position on abortion trumped his objections to WWE, according to the Stamford Advocate.

Even the secular newspapers that endorsed Simmons were critical of the culture surrounding WWE. The editorial board from New London's The Day called WWE "exploitative and often degrading form of entertainment" that "glorifies violence and bullying" and "has treated women as objects." The Norwich Bulletin editorial board said WWE "exploits and degrades women, glorifies violence and is riddled with drug scandals." The Hartford Courant called the content "schlocky and off-color."

McMahon, if she wins the primary as expected, will have an uphill battle in the general election: She trails the presumed Democratic nominee, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, by 10 points. But she has steadily cut into Blumenthal's lead, which in January was 41 points. Blumenthal, who is also pro-abortion, has come under heavy fire for misleading comments that indicated he had served in Vietnam.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emzleb.

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