BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon won’t be attending any of the three fundraisers in her state on Sunday featuring Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
“I’m not, only because I have scheduling conflicts,” McMahon told National Journal when asked whether she’ll be on hand for any of those events with Ryan.
McMahon, running in a state where President Obama is popular, insisted she is not trying to avoid being tied too closely to the House Budget Committee chairman, or to Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee. But she also said that she is an “independent thinker,” unafraid to differ with her party’s leaders.
Meanwhile, Andrew Roraback, another Connecticut Republican locked in a hotly contested race – this one for an open congressional seat – said Thursday night in a message sent to National Journal via his Blackberry that, “At this point a very busy campaign schedule in the district makes it unlikely I will make Ryan fundraisers.”
On the stump in western and central Connecticut, Roraback has been aggressively trying to distance himself from the House GOP’s controversial budgets formulated under Ryan, R-Wis., including their strategies to transform Medicare into a voucher program and cut billions of dollars from social programs. Roraback tells voters he would not have voted for any of the Ryan budgets.
Ryan’s appearances Sunday in West Hartford, Darien and Greenwich are yet another reflection of Connecticut’s role as one of the main ATMs for fundraising, for both parties.
But the appearances come as the top of the GOP ticket also appears to loom as a potential major drag for down-ticket Connecticut Republicans like McMahon and Roraback. Polls in the state show Obama with commanding leads over Romney. One such poll this week by Public Policy Polling showed Obama with a 13-point lead, 54 percent to 41 percent. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
McMahon’s Senate opponent, Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy, and Roraback’s Democratic foe, Elizabeth Esty, were both preparing to pounce on Ryan’s visit to their state.
Already, they were scheduled to join Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and state Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo in a telephone conference call on Friday. The aim, according to an announcement, was to highlight “the troubling statements and policies put forth” by Ryan, McMahon and the GOP “that would undermine the Social Security safety net and end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program.”
On Thursday, Murphy jumped on news that McMahon had told a public forum sponsored by the tea party in April that she believed in "sunset provisions" and periodic reviews for major programs like Social Security. He told listeners during an appearance at a senior center that that meant she wants to phase out Social Security.
In the later interview Thursday with National Journal, McMahon denied that was her meaning. She said that what she intended to convey was only that the Social Security program should be periodically reviewed, to determine what must be done to keep it adequately funded, but not with an eye toward letting the program expire.
“What I really meant by that is we just have to have checkpoints in it, so that we are reviewing policy that is so heavily economic, and what we need to keep funding,” she said. She said the notion that she wants Congress to phase out the program is “absolutely not” what she meant by the use of the word “sunset.”
As for her not attending any of the fundraisers on Sunday featuring Ryan, McMahon said she is not trying to distance herself from her party’s national ticket. But she then suddenly offered, “You know, I’m an independent thinker. I do differ from my party on some issues.”
She noted that, “on the issue of pro-choice or pro-life, I’m pro-choice.” She also said “there will be votes where I won’t be voting with my party.”
Asked directly whether she was worried about whether the top of the ticket could be hurting her own chances in November, she said only: “I can tell you I’m running my campaign in Connecticut. And I’m really focused and centered on the people in Connecticut.”