Polling information released by Gallup this week depicted a bleak electoral environment for Democratic candidates nationwide. According to a poll conducted August 23-29, 2010, the Republican Party has a 10 percent advantage on the generic ballot, the largest GOP spread in the history of the Gallup numbers. The lousy news for Democrats didn’t stop there.
The widely-respected Larry Sabato, the director at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, updated his November 2010 predictions with some surprising results. By his calculations, the GOP is on track to pick up eight governorships nationwide, eight or nine seats in the U.S. Senate, and a majority-making 47 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Will this apparent Republican wave carry Connecticut Republican candidates, like gubernatorial nominee Tom Foley and U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon to victory this November? Or will the wave, like Hurricane Earl, just miss the Nutmeg State?
So far, the data on the races is too sparse to reveal much, but it isn’t particularly encouraging for Connecticut Republicans. On August 16, Rasmussen Reports conducted a poll of the post-primary environment and found that the GOP’s Foley, a former Ambassador to Ireland, trailed his Democratic opponent by a 33 percent – 48 percent margin. Polling from the same organization on August 13 showed that the U.S. Senate race was much closer, with Republican nominee Linda McMahon seven points behind Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
Connecticut has been susceptible to national trends in the past. The 1994 Republican wave, which swept a Republican majority into the U.S. House for the first time in decades, also narrowly propelled John G. Rowland to the front of a four candidate pack. In 1984, the Reagan landslide produced the first Republican majority in the State House of Representatives since Watergate.
But these national dynamics don’t seem to be translating to Connecticut at the moment. Connecticut’s gubernatorial race is one of just four contests nationwide listed as “Likely Dem Pickup” by RealClearPolitics. By contrast, 10 seats currently held by Democrats are expected to switch to Republican control. The same review has Connecticut’s Senate seat listed as the only “Lean Dem” seat in the nation while ranking seven as “Lean GOP.”
This unusual Democratic strength is grounded on a significant party registration advantage over state Republicans and a ticket of proven candidates. Whereas Republicans make up 20 percent of the statewide voters, 36 percent of voters are enrolled with the Democratic Party, making it far more difficult for a Republican to make the contests competitive. At the same time, Blumenthal has been the high vote-getter on the ballot every cycle since 1998 and former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy posted a surprisingly strong victory over Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary on Aug. 10.
This doesn’t mean that the Republicans should be counted out just yet. McMahon’s campaign for the U.S. Senate has been consistently grinding away at Blumenthal’s numbers over the course of the last several months while Blumenthal has stayed largely out of the limelight. In the governor’s race, Foley held off a strong challenge from Lt. Gov Mike Fedele at the end of the GOP primary contest and hasn’t yet engaged Malloy in the general.
In an interview this week, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour noted that, “There is a correlation that is not well recognized that very rarely do you get a new Republican Senator elected to replace a Democrat if the same day we lose the Governor’s race in that state.” Given this, the fates of McMahon and Foley, as well as the Connecticut GOP, seem tied not only to the national environment but also to each other’s hard work in the weeks ahead.
Heath W. Fahle is a policy analyst and consultant based in Manchester. His background in political campaigns includes work for former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons and the Connecticut Republican Party. He also is the principal of Revolutionary Strategies LLC, a website design and consulting firm. Learn more at www.heathwfahle.com.