Sen. Joe Lieberman — an independent who reliably caucuses with the Democrats — is retiring, and his seat has long been seen as a rare safe hold in a challenging year for Senate Democrats. Rep. Chris Murphy, representing the most Republican part of a solidly blue state, won the Democratic nomination while Republicans went with the multimillionaire pro-wrestling magnate Linda McMahon, who lost the open 2010 race for Connecticut's other Senate seat, despite dumping more than $40 million of her fortune into the campaign. But McMahon is running a much better campaign this time around, and she has pulled even or slightly ahead of Murphy in some recent polls — providing, ironically, a rare bright spot for disheartened Senate Republicans.
Rep. Chris Murphy (D)
U.S. congressman since 2007
Linda McMahon (R)
Former CEO and co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)
The McMahon-Murphy contest has become pretty ugly and very expensive, with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee forced to step in to help Murphy keep up with McMahon's self-funded ad onslaught. McMahon criticizes Murphy for missing congressional hearings and accuses him of getting a sweetheart deal on a home-equity loan — a charge he and the bank both deny. Murphy charges that McMahon's tax plan is lifted from conservative Washington groups far to the right of Connecticut — she says the plan is her own — and that on issues from women's rights to Medicare and Social Security, McMahon is too conservative for the state. Most electoral handicappers rate this race either as leaning Democratic or a tossup. "If this were a midterm election, [Murphy] would have real problems," says Real Clear Politics, but Obama's popularity in the Constitution State "is probably enough to push him through" in the general election.
REAL CLEAR POLITICS POLL AVERAGE
Murphy: 44 percent
McMahon: 41 percent
(See the full data here.)
CASH ON HAND (as of July 25):
Murphy: $2.5 million on hand; $5.6 million total
McMahon: $2.4 million on hand; $14.1 million total (self-financing: $13.1 million)
Chris Murphy: "On Our Side"
Linda McMahon: "Independent"
More races at a glance:
Massachusetts Senate: Scott Brown vs. Elizabeth Warren
Nebraska Senate: Deb Fischer vs. Bob Kerrey
North Dakota Senate: Rick Berg vs. Heidi Heitkamp
Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.