Could she be the next Jesse Ventura?
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/18/mcmahon.linda.art.jpg caption="Linda McMahon is stepping down as CEO of WWE to make a bid for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut."]
Linda McMahon is stepping down as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment to enter the race for U.S. Senate in Connecticut as a Republican. She’s exchanging the wrestling ring for the political ring. And she has a tough fight ahead of her.
McMahon discussed her Senate bid with Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Friday. Below is an edited transcript of the interview.
Kiran Chetry: I just want to know, first of all, what made you decide I'm going to go for this year and I’m going to try to get through the primary and try to challenge Chris Dodd?
Linda McMahon: You know, Kiran, I'm a businesswoman and I've been watching what's been going on. The mounting debt that we have, people out of work, reckless spending going on in Washington and I couldn't sit on the sidelines and watch anymore. I really wanted to get in, to do something. I've found also as I've traveled around Connecticut and talked to people, there's been a growing sentiment and really consistent that our citizens have lost faith and trust in Chris Dodd. It was a good time to get in. It seemed the right time to get in. So I want to get there and make a mark for the people of Connecticut.
Chetry: Politics is, some people say, sort of like wrestling, if you will, because you've got to get your hands dirty. You, as you said, are a successful business woman. You and your husband Vince started with 13 employees and for three decades you've built upon this very successful business, publicly traded company now. Did you talk about it with your husband and your family and what did you guys go over when it comes to the pros and cons of making yourself so public out there, trying to run for office?
McMahon: Well, I clearly have the support of all of my family and good friends as well. And you know, Kiran, you talked a bit about spending 30 years building this business. That's true. And we haven't always been in the position that I am now. Because, at first, when Vince and I started out we actually went bankrupt. We lost our house, we lost our credit cards. We couldn't even rent a car. So I know the angst of that. I know the embarrassment of that. I know what it's like to wonder are you going to have a job, are you going to be able to make your mortgage?
So I think I walked in the shoes of some of the folks here in Connecticut and, really, in the country. And I understand their plight. So I know what it's like to be in that position. And we have to get people back to work. Our economy's not going to change until we actually create jobs or have businesses grow. And small businesses, they create about 70% of the jobs and they can't get credit today. And in a small business, if you can't get credit for a bridge loan, sometimes you have to fold up shop, you certainly can't grow. So that's my goal. I understand creating jobs. And I want to be able to help do that.
Chetry: Jesse Ventura, when he ran, he took a lot of flak at first and we saw endless video of him in the ring and in his audacious costumes and I'm sure you'll get some that as well. Are you nervous that maybe some of these performances will come back to haunt you on the campaign trail?
McMahon: What I have to do in Connecticut is travel around and talk to our people, because they don't know me. I want to travel around our state. I want our citizens to be able to look me in the eye. I want them to get to know me and to know what I stand for. And I want to hear what they have to say. I want to hear their ideas, because I don't think you can go to Washington just entirely with your own ideas. You have to know what the citizens of your state expect out of you. So I trust that when I have that opportunity, they'll make their decision next year and I hope I have convinced them I'm the right one to be their voice in Washington.
Chetry: So you don't care if your competitors try to use some of your best wrestling moments against you?
McMahon: I think the citizens of Connecticut will see that that's an entertainment product and they'll get to the crux of the matter. Our citizens are very smart. They enjoy our product but they also know that it's an entertainment product that's on television and the company that's behind that is a very strong company. It's traded on the New York Stock Exchange. So I think they'll have a good idea about that.
Chetry: I want to get your opinion on just a couple of things that are percolating right now in the Congress. Quickly, if you will, what do you think about this whole debate about overhauling health care? Do you think that what's in there right now in the Senate, this bipartisan – hopefully bipartisan proposal by Max Baucus is going to make it and should make it?
McMahon: I'll tell you, I do think we need health care reform. I don't think anyone questions that but what we do question is how are you going to pay for it and what are the things that our citizens are afraid they're going to lose? What I hear in talking to the people of Connecticut are pretty much the same as you hear everywhere. That is, are we going to have loss of benefits for our seniors? How does it affect the doctor/patient relationship? And those are real concerns but cost is at the center of it. I'm going to look very carefully. If I were in the Senate now, I would be looking very carefully at the bill and we need to probe it and do it right and we don't need to rush through it but we need to get it right.