HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A national Democratic group is contributing $320,000 for television advertisements to help U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy in his Senate campaign against former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, a party official said Tuesday.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is spending the money on a TV campaign beginning Wednesday, said the official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. The official said it was the committee's first television ad buy to support Murphy's campaign.
The investment from the DSCC comes as polls indicate a tightening race in the Democratic-leaning state, where McMahon, a Republican, has tapped her personal fortune to saturate television with advertisements and forced Murphy to play defense with his own ads.
McMahon, who was chief executive of WWE, formerly known as World Wrestling Entertainment, spent $50 million of her own money on a failed Senate run in 2010 against then-attorney general Richard Blumenthal. She has lent or contributed nearly $16 million to her 2012 campaign, with much of that going toward television advertising.
A Quinnipiac University poll released last month showed the race was nearly tied, with McMahon leading Murphy 49 percent to 46 percent among likely voters.
The contribution by the DSCC shows it's taking notice of the resources at McMahon's disposal and the effectiveness of her advertising, Quinnipiac political science professor Scott McLean said.
"She has done a lot of rehabilitation of her image in the state to the point that she has very solid favorability among voters," McLean said. "People don't actually know who Chris Murphy is yet to the extent Democrats thought they would."
Despite talk of Connecticut becoming a battleground state, McLean said he believes the race is still Murphy's to lose but his success will depend on whether he has the time and resources to make himself well known to voters.
"The control of the Senate actually could hang on this particular race," McLean said. "I don't think the Democrats want to say, 'If only we had spent the money on Chris Murphy's race, we might have saved it.'"
Murphy, who is in his third term representing Connecticut's 5th Congressional District, has raised less than $6 million, according to financial reports.
A campaign spokesman, Ben Marter, said he had no comment on the DSCC spending.
"We are focused on our own campaign," Marter said.
Within days of an easy primary election victory in August, Murphy found himself on the defensive. McMahon advertisements attacked his attendance record at congressional hearings. She faulted him for missing nearly 80 percent of the hearings held by two key congressional committees during the financial crisis.
More recently, the McMahon campaign has seized on the disclosure that Murphy was sued in 2007 for defaulting on a home mortgage. McMahon alleges Murphy later received a special deal on a home equity line of credit, although Murphy and the bank that issued the loan deny that.
McMahon's campaign said cash won't help Murphy's campaign.
"No matter how much money Congressman Chris Murphy's Washington cronies decide to waste on propping up his campaign, those dollars will never change the fact that Congressman Murphy has amassed a record of failure in Washington," McMahon campaign spokesman Todd Abrajano said.
In Murphy's advertisements, he has accused McMahon of distorting his record on financial reform. He also has discussed how he is focused on creating jobs and criticized McMahon's economic plan of benefiting the wealthy by extending tax cuts on higher incomes.
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