Republican Linda McMahon is sending her strongest signal yet that she is on the cusp of running for the open Senate seat of retiring incumbent Joe Lieberman in 2012, her second shot at the office in as many years.

Multiple people familiar with McMahon's plans say that the Greenwich resident and former WWE chief executive has already hired a campaign manager and is burning up the telephone lines trying to cultivate support for her candidacy within the GOP ranks.

Party insiders say that McMahon has tapped Corry Bliss, 30, a Republican strategist who has worked on several high-profile races in Virginia and Vermont, to run her campaign.

When an introductory call to Bliss was made Wednesday, asking if he would be working for McMahon, he didn't deny it.

"Yes, I am," Bliss said.

Bliss later couched his comments, however, saying he wasn't on McMahon's payroll because she hasn't definitely declared for the race.

"I am a political consultant who has talked to her," Bliss said. "She has not made up her mind."

Bliss said he would be interested in the job, which is expected to command a hefty sum similar to 2010, when former Republican state Sen. David Cappiello of Danbury received an annual salary of $280,000 to run McMahon's campaign.

A message seeking comment from McMahon, the matriarch of the WWE wrestling empire and wife of Vince McMahon, was left Wednesday with her Hartford publicist.

McMahon spent $50 million of her vast personal fortune on an unsuccessful bid for the Senate in 2010, coming up 11 points short against longtime Democratic state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

Waiting in the wings is a stable of Democrats that includes U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, state Rep. William Tong, of Stamford, and Sylvester Salcedo, an Orange resident who practices law in Bridgeport.

McMahon could face a battle for the GOP nomination, as former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-4, is said by party stalwarts to be close to entering the race.

One person who won't be at the helm of McMahon's ship but had been rumored to be in the mix is Phil Cox, executive director of the Republican Governors Association.

"Interesting, but sorry to disappoint," Cox wrote in an email Wednesday. "No truth to that whatsoever. I have never spoken to her or any member of her campaign team and have my plate extremely full with the best job in politics -- ED of the RGA."

Cox served as campaign manager for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2009, engineering an 18-point landslide victory.

"We have a great opportunity to pick up additional seats in the next two years, and I'm fully committed to doing all that I can to make that happen," Cox said.

Another name that political observers can cross off the list is Brooks Kochvar, who characterized rumors that he is McMahon's hired gun as completely false.

Kochvar worked as campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore. In 2007, Kochvar was chief of staff for controversial U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., a current White House hopeful.

"I've never been contacted by their campaign," Kochvar said Wednesday.

Her foes turned the bitter contest into a referendum on the professional wrestling industry, with McMahon polling weakly among female voters.

Unlike her first run for office, which was entirely self-funded, McMahon is said by GOP insiders to be leaning toward accepting political donations this time.

A number of prominent Republicans across the state acknowledged that McMahon has reached out them in recent weeks to shore up their support, with her telling them that she is "99.9 percent" in the race to succeed Lieberman.