HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) β Organized labor, national Democrats, abortion rights activists and environmentalists are ramping up support for Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, who is facing an onslaught of negative TV ads and mailings paid for by his wealthy Republican foe in Connecticut's U.S. Senate race, former wrestling executive Linda McMahon.
The liberal groups say Murphy, who is not as well-known outside his district in northwestern Connecticut, needs their help as polls show him in a statistical dead heat with McMahon.
"He's going to be very dependent on others to help him," said John Olsen, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO and a former Democratic Party state chairman. "I think his friends have to step up a lot."
It appears that's happening. In September alone, outside entities have spent $1.5 million to help Murphy, according to Federal Election Commission records. Much of that has been spent on TV ads attacking McMahon. Of the total sum, $891,693 came from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee β $299,756 in spending on TV ads was posted Monday. An additional $512,570 came from a national super PAC working to promote a Democratic majority in the Senate, and $120,462 came from a Connecticut-based super PAC run by a Murphy friend.
Additionally, the liberal website MoveOn.org issued a fundraising appeal on behalf of Murphy β one of five Senate candidates MoveOn.org has endorsed β shortly after the Democratic National Convention. It raised $83,000 from more than 4,600 donors nationwide over a few days. Daniel Mintz, the national director of coordinated campaigns, said more fundraising appeals on Murphy's behalf are likely.
"There's no question that given McMahon's nearly limitless resources, that it poses a challenge," Mintz said. "But she did spend $50 million of her own money just two years ago and lost handily to Dick Blumenthal. It's not undoable by any means."
McMahon, who spent $50 million on her unsuccessful 2010 Senate race, has spent more than $16 million on this year's campaign. While she has done some fundraising, most of it is her own money. No independent expenditures have been made on her behalf so far by outside groups, according to federal records.
McMahon's campaign makes the point that she has been done more than run expensive TV ads. Compared with her last Senate run, she has focused more heavily on grassroots organization.
"Linda has been working very hard in this campaign. She's held over 100 'Conversations with Linda' for women, she's been to over 200 small businesses, and this campaign will make over one million phone calls and knock on 500,000 doors," said Todd Abrajano, McMahon's campaign spokesman. "So we're very confident with where we are at right now."
Groups friendly to Murphy are helping him with on-the-ground campaigning and get-out-the-vote efforts as well.
The Connecticut Working Families Party, a liberal minor political party that has endorsed Murphy, has also been going door to door, talking to people about Murphy's attributes, hoping to combat the barrage of negative TV ads about everything from Murphy's late rent and mortgage payments to the number of congressional hearings he missed.
The Working Families Party knocked on 48,000 doors in 2008's election and 60,000 in 2010, and it hopes to surpass that number in 2012.
Lindsay Farrell, the state party's executive director, said running against a multimillionaire candidate like McMahon presents its own obstacles. But she said Murphy has strong support from a lot of organizations and voters in the 5th District.
Jerry Labriola, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, said he believes Murphy and the Democrats "had a false sense of security" going into this year's Senate race. While Murphy has served in Congress since 2007 and in the General Assembly, he does not have the same name recognition as Blumenthal, the former state attorney general who defeated McMahon in 2010.
"It's kind of like the golden boy syndrome. Everything has gone his way," Labriola said of Murphy. "He's in the big leagues now running against Linda McMahon. He's stepping up to the plate and facing some chin music."
Labriola credits McMahon with running a good campaign and setting the record straight about herself and her modest background. At the same time, when Murphy should be introducing himself to the voters, Labriola said McMahon has been able to reveal her Democratic rival "for what he is: an ambitious, young, career politician who has accomplished absolutely nothing in Congress."
Follow Susan Haigh on Twitter at (at)SusanHaighAP
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