As the former chief executive officer of World Wrestling Entertainment, Linda McMahon knows drama. But even she didn’t anticipate the furor over her latest bid to win a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut, which she lost to Democrat Chris Murphy. It was audacious, coming just two years after losing to another Democrat in a state where only one-fifth of voters are registered Republicans. It was expensive, with McMahon personally spending $97 million on the two campaigns. And it was controversial, as McMahon ran ads that ripped her opponent while distancing herself from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. She spoke with Senior Editor Diane Brady on Nov. 8. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:
When did you realize you’d lost the race?
I was sitting by myself, actually. I had just taken a moment to go upstairs and get my thoughts together on what I was still hoping would be a victory speech. I was just sitting there, going over my speech—clearly you have a concession speech as well, but you’re hoping that’s not the one you use. I wasn’t paying that much attention to the TV. This was about 40 minutes after the polls closed. Then I looked up and saw a check mark next to Chris Murphy’s name on ABC. I barely caught it out of the corner of my eye. I just thought, “Wow.” I was stunned for a moment. I sat there for a few minutes on my own, reflecting on what the race had been. I thought about the thousands of people who not only had touched me but whom I had touched as well. All the notes, “Thank you for running. Thank you for showing me that it’s worth putting everything on the line,” and things like that.