Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean helped candidates rally the party’s base Friday with his message of hopeful change for the crowd gathered at a Hartford sports bar. He said the first three things Democrats will do when they reclaim the majority on Capitol Hill is raise the minimum wage, establish an ethics code, and create a health care system that insures everybody. He said with 18 days left there needs to be a real effort to communicate the values difference between the Democratic candidates and their opponents. That difference in values should have become evident over the past few weeks as candidates squared off against each other in several televised debates, but recent polling data still shows Democratic candidates behind.

How far behind depends on which poll. There’s the Zogby poll that has Ned Lamont trailing incumbent U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman by 6 points or the latest Quinnipiac University poll that shows Lamont behind by about 17 points. The Q-Poll of 881 likely Connecticut voters was taken Oct. 17-19 and had a 3.5 percent margin of error. Lamont campaign manager Tom Swan said he finds the Quinnipiac poll “intellectually dishonest,” and had not yet seen the Zogby poll, which was an Internet-based poll of 531 residents conducted Oct. 10-16 with a 4.3 percent margin of error. Bottom line is, “if we had been driven by polls we would have never gotten into this race,” Swan said. But Lamont was stripped of the underdog status in August when he beat Lieberman in the Democratic primary. Probably the biggest underdog on election day will be DeStefano, who faces an uphill battle against Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell. Friday’s Q-Poll showed that DeStefano had cut Rell’s lead by picking up more support, as Rell lost a few points. The poll showed Rell leading DeStefano 59 percent to 33 percent among likely voters, compared to 63 percent to 30 percent at the end of September. Despite the good news, DeStefano didn’t seem overly optimistic about the poll before walking into Coach’s Sports Bar for the rally Friday. He said the debate set up a clear contrast between himself and the governor, which helped create momentum for his campaign as it moves into the final few weeks. “It’s up to the field operation now,” he said with a shrug. DeStefano’s outlook seemed to change as soon as he stepped on stage Friday and asked the crowd “What time is it?” And the crowd responded: “It’s time for change.”