Monday, August 07, 2006

Connecticut Governor Race

Race of the Day

August 7, 2006
92 Days Until Election Day

Connecticut Governor

Status: Republican Incumbent
2004 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Safe Republican

In a race that is being vastly overshadowed by the attention paid to the state’s contest for U.S. Senate, Democrats in the Nutmeg State have been frustrated with their inability to win the Governorship of such a Democrat friendly state for a generation now.

They were understandably feeling a lot more optimistic about their chances in 2006 when three-term Republican Governor John Rowland accepted a plea bargain on corruption charges and spent time behind bars after being forced to resign office in disgrace. This allowed his longtime Lt. Governor and political partner, Jodi Rell to ascend to the Governorship.

One would think that with such a bad feeling generated by Rowland and by association, his political party, and especially in such a state where Democrats are strong, any Republican would be extremely hard pressed to win a fourth consecutive Gubernatorial victory for the GOP. Nonetheless, Rell is in extremely good political shape in the aftermath of all the turmoil.

Had Rowland decided to fight the charges and not resign, the stories surrounding him would have continued to dog everything associated with his administration and Rell would probably be in an uphill battle to win the Governorship this year, especially without the benefit of incumbency.

Since taking office though, Rell has charted a course of moderation and non-ideological pursuits that have her as one of the most popular Governors in America. Her polling numbers are nothing short of astounding, once again, especially considering the political nature of the state. Her job approval numbers, while having leveled off somewhat, had been in the 80s and in head to head polling matchups, she generates well over 30 percent of support while her Democrat challengers are languishing at around 30 percent, or worse in those polls. The most recent Quinnipiac University poll has her outdistancing Democrat opponents by over 40 percent. Thus, Rell simply has to consider her to be a safe bet for election to a full term at this point. The race might tighten up somewhat more after tomorrow’s primary, but it is now hard to imagine that Rell will not approach or surpass 60 percent of her state’s vote, thus warranting the “Safe Republican” classification.

Rell is seen in Connecticut as a very likeable figure that generated a lot of goodwill after undergoing breast cancer surgery. On the issues, she is certainly a moderate Republican on social matters. One such example is how under Rell, Connecticut became the first state in America to pass legislation allowing for same sex civil unions, without the involvement of the judiciary. While such a position would be seen as controversial, Rell did not have much in the way of rebellion among social conservatives to contend with or any sort of significant opposition to her nomination.

Tomorrow, Connecticut Democrats will choose between two mayors: John DeStefano of New Haven and Dan Malloy of Stamford. This primary may just come down to whom is best able to turn their vote out in a demographic sort of way. Malloy narrowly captured the state party endorsement a few months back by just four total votes. Recent polls however, have shown DeStefano with a healthy, but diminishing lead. DeStefano appears to be perceived as somewhat more liberal and has some significant endorsements, but Malloy also has his share of endorsements from elected officials and newspaper editorial boards. According to the campaign website of U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, both DeStefano and Malloy have endorsed his candidacy for reelection (at least in the Democrat primary) and thus both candidates cannot hope to be helped by the passionate supporters of Lieberman or especially of his primary opponent Ned Lamont. In fact, the campaigns for Governor may be missing out on a whole lot of the spotlight that is coming from the passion of the anti-Lieberman forces within the party, while Lieberman’s backers are understandably more concerned about the Senator’s fate.

While both Democrats look like strong contenders to be elected Governor of Connecticut on paper, all the public opinion data from the state shows that they are likely competing just to be sacrificial lambs this cycle. The focus on the Connecticut Senate race in the general election is almost all but certain to continue to overshadow the race for Governor over the next few months.

Jodi Rell’s massive popularity and her single-handed rescuing of the Republican Party in Connecticut is a strong symbol that personal appeal and mirroring the views of the electorate on the issues is a recipe for success that can easily overcome the overall political party bent of an area and any indirect ties to corrupt former colleagues.

Rell campaign link:

2006 Governor races predicted thus far: 2 D, 5 R

Post-election total of Governors predicted thus far: 10 D, 11 R