Republican millionaires have a pretty lousy record running for high office in Connecticut. Linda McMahon's hideously expensive effort ($100 million for self-funded U.S. Senate campaigns in 2010 and 2012) is only the latest and costliest failure.
Tom Foley spent $10 million of his own cash to lose the governor's race two years ago. Brooks Johnson, Jack Orchulli and Peter Schiff all racked up their own high-priced campaign defeats over the years. And mega-millionaire Mitt Romney's pitiful presidential performance in Connecticut certainly didn't help the brand.
(One wealthy Democrat, Ned Lamont, spent a sizeable chunk of his own cash financing a futile campaign for high office in 2006, proving that this "millionaires' curse" isn't strictly a GOP malady. But the Dems just don't seem to make a habit of running millionaire losers the way Connecticut Republicans do.)
"Perhaps," state Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. told reporters in the wake of McMahon's most recent double-digit debacle, "the age of massive self-funders in Connecticut is over."
Really? In this Citizen's United wonderland where, courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court, money equals free speech and unlimited special interest campaign spending is the order of the day, are we really done with ego-driven millionaires carrying the GOP banner?
Some political experts doubt we've seen the last of them. They say the problem isn't that Connecticut Republicans are running millionaires for high office, but maybe they're running the wrong sorts of millionaires--ones who have no claim to public service or political experience, and who end up running the wrong sorts of campaigns.
There's also the possibility, at least in these last couple of elections, that Connecticut's blue state voters are continuing to blame Wall Street, Republicans and wealthy one percenters for causing the recession that's hurt so much of the middle class.
"It was remarkable when you look at the  exit polls how many voters still hold George W. Bush and the Republicans responsible for the economic downturn that Barack Obama inherited," says Christopher Arterton, a New Haven political scientist and a professor at the Washington, D.C.-based Graduate School of Political Management. "There's still a residue that Republicans are running against."
Being a very wealthy person willing to spend millions of your own money to get elected to high office at a time when most voters are still suffering economically can make it tough to sell yourself, says Chris DePino, a former state GOP chairman.
"It's difficult when people of substantial means have to explain their wealth in a public way," according to DePino.
Another of Connecticut's former GOP chairmen, Chris Healy, says President Obama's Democratic Party did a masterful job of "controlling the narrative" in this election. Healy argues (with a lot of history on his side) that the Great Recession was actually more of a "team effort" involving not only Republicans and Wall Street but plenty of Democratic leaders as well.
None of that matters if most folks blame Republicans and you happen to be a very wealthy Republican candidate looking to woo those still-angry voters. "It's hard to make that connection," Healy says.
It's even tougher if, like Linda McMahon, you have no political experience or qualifications for the office you're seeking. McMahon's sole claim to credentials was she had been a "job creator" while CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, a sleazy TV operation based on pseudo-violence and pseudo-sex.
McMahon, like a lot of millionaire political wannabes in Connecticut history, wanted to jump into the political world only at the highest level.
These successful corporate types figure their money means they don't have to put in time in the political trenches, running for municipal office or the state legislature, building a base of support and campaign contributors, learning the grunt work of how to convince people to vote for them.
"There are few people who can make a successful initial transition from the non-political world to the political world," says Healy. "Politics is a strange, strange place for civilians." He adds that wealthy types who have made the transition, like the Kennedys and the Bushes, often got political experience in some fashion before shooting for the big time.
"I think the lesson from this past election on wealthy individuals running for public offices is that... Connecticut's electorate wants people with political experience as well as financial independence," DePino says. "The clear indication was a rejection of individuals who didn't have public service experience."
To support his argument, DePino points to the history of Connecticut candidates who combined personal wealth and political success, dudes like Lowell P. Weicker Jr. and Richard Blumenthal.
Weicker had money from a family pharmaceutical fortune, but ran and won as a Republican for first selectman of Greenwich, state representative and U.S. senator, later turning independent to become governor.
Blumenthal ain't no pauper either. His wife's family owns, among other little gems, the Empire State Building. But DePino says Blumenthal's long political career as a state lawmaker, U.S. attorney and state attorney general meant voters "looked at him more as a public servant than as a millionaire."
Another thing Weicker and Blumenthal had in common was they didn't use their own money to try and buy their way into politics. Both did it the old-fashioned way, by sucking up to campaign contributors to get the money to run.
Arterton says one of McMahon's "big mistakes was relying so exclusively on her own sources of money."
He says extremely wealthy candidates often find it "easier to just write a check" than it is to set up a fundraising machine and make endless calls asking people to give money for a campaign.
"But raising money and raising political support go hand in hand," Arterton says.
Healy agrees: "If you make the mistake of being identified as a self-funder… you don't go through the regime of trying to get support from donors." And that "lets people off the hook," he adds.
Getting somebody to send in a campaign check for as little as $100 says "You're invested in this... It's sort of a marker you put down" to demonstrate real support for a candidate, Healy explains.
Arterton doesn't believe the era of millionaires running for office in Connecticut is over, in part because there is so damned much money that has to be spent these days to run political campaigns. The Citizen's United Supreme Court ruling allows super PACs to spend as much as they want, which puts greater pressure on candidates to be able to find big money of their own.
"I think what we'll see is well-funded candidates, partially self-funded and partially funded by putting in place fundraising operations," Arterton says.
And then there's always the attraction for a political party of choosing wealthy candidates willing to spend their own cash on their campaigns. That way, explains Arterton, a party doesn't have to worry about running often difficult and time-consuming efforts to find and stroke campaign contributors, or fear that one of its candidates might be taking contributions away from everybody else on its lineup.
"It's a lot easier," Arterton points out, "to go with somebody who comes to a campaign with their own fortune."
The problem with that philosophy is that, for some millionaires, money is all they can bring to a campaign.