The polls are in, and the primary races are all over but the very loud and curse-filled shouting. Tuesday night should be fun to watch. Here are a couple of things to look for, and a few predictions.
The Late Game of Dan Malloy
In 2006, Dan Malloy nearly defeated rival John DeStefano, coming within a few percentage points. For a candidate who was largely unknown to voters throughout the primary season, it was a remarkable feat. Malloy’s campaign finished strong thanks to solid debate performances, an energetic voter outreach program, and negative attacks like the infamous DeStefano-in-women’s-clothing ad (which I have an amazing array of mixed feelings about). It nearly worked. In 2006, a Quinnipiac Poll taken just before the election showed Malloy down by 10 percent. He lost by 2 percent. In fact, had the Lamont-Lieberman primary not been going on at the same time, or had Malloy not shared a ballot line with Lieberman, he might have been the nominee.
The same story seems to unfolding this time around. Malloy is inching up on frontrunner Ned Lamont through a combination of negative ads, newspaper endorsements, debates and voter outreach. A Quinnipiac Poll had Malloy within 5 percent of Lamont, a slight improvement from his July showing.
This is no guarantee, though, that Malloy will actually catch his rival. Lamont still has better name recognition, and many Democrats still feel warmly towards him from his epic 2006 fight against Lieberman. Lamont has also fired a few negative attacks of his own.
I suspect turnout will be key. A lower turnout will probably benefit Malloy—his numbers are better among likely voters than among Democrats as a whole, and Lamont is more widely known. However, it’s August, and there are no headline races to capture the imagination and enthusiasm this time around.
Prediction: Malloy by a nose
Republicans Fight to the End
The Republican races are a lot easier to call—polls show the frontrunners in the gubernatorial and senate races well ahead of their rivals. But again, the thing to watch here is turnout. Republicans haven’t had a statewide primary in August yet, so the number of voters who will show up is anyone’s guess.
Rob Simmons is almost certainly not going to catch Linda McMahon, but one has to wonder what might have happened if he’d waged an aggressive primary campaign against her from the convention on. The story of the night might well be the amount of support Peter Schiff gets, and whether or not a candidate like him is actually viable in Connecticut.
Tom Foley looks ready to defeat his two rivals, if polls are to be believed, but support for any of the Republican gubernatorial candidate seems to be amazingly soft. If, as Quinnipiac suggests, over 70 percent of voters might change their minds on a candidate less than two weeks before an election, the results could be surprising. That’s a pretty big if, however, and chances are that the frontrunners will coast to victory.
Predictions: Foley and McMahon by respectable margins
An interesting race to watch is the Democratic Secretary of the State race, where endorsed candidate and veteran lawmaker Denise Merrill is running against Gerry Garcia of New Haven. Merrill is reasonably well-known among Democrats, but Garcia has been making a splash with a series of colorful, interesting ads. Garcia may do better than expected here.
Another Democratic primary, for comptroller this time, has feelings running high. Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura is waging a nasty fight against endorsed candidate Kevin Lembo, putting out an infamous direct mail hit piece and trying to deny Lembo funding through the court system. Meanwhile, tape has surfaced of Jarjura speaking to a Tea Party gathering, a big no-no for a Democrat this year. Jarjura may yet find a way out of Waterbury, but many Democrats seem ready to hand him a loss.
Lastly, the Republican primary for attorney general is making some waves. Endorsed candidate Martha Dean is threatening legal action against attorney Ross Garber for mailings suggesting she favored legalization of heroin and cocaine. Garber has picked up a few high-profile endorsements, lately, but it may take more than that to defeat Dean.
Chris Bigelow is the former owner/author of Connecticut Local Politics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and cats.