A day after Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy saw his lead disappear in at least one poll, former President Bill Clinton came to the University of Hartford to give the former Stamford mayor a boost just 48-hours before the vote.
“It matters who the governor is,” Clinton told a gymnasium full of about 2,000 Democratic supporters Sunday.
In a state that’s been losing jobs for years, Clinton touted Malloy’s job-creation record as Stamford’s mayor.
The City of Stamford under Malloy’s leadership gained 5,000 new jobs, Clinton said. “I think that’s pretty good.”
Going back to a continuing theme that this is a “fact-free election“ Clinton said Malloy’s Republican opponent, Tom Foley, who he didn’t mention by name, “only wants to talk about the jobs the city of Stamford lost in banking and financing when the financial collapse occurred and everybody lost jobs.”
“He had utterly no control over it,” Clinton said. “They’re still way ahead of where they would been if he hadn’t been there in the first place.”
Clinton then took Foley to task over The Bibb Co., a Georgia textile mill that Foley‘s management company, NTC Group, ran before it filed for bankruptcy in 1996.
At the time, Clinton said, businessmen all over the country were taking loans in exchange for paying off debt by laying off employees. “By the time they got through with them they were no longer able to produce what they were hired to produce at a competitive rate because 3,200 people lost their jobs,” Clinton said. “I think plus 5,000 is better than minus 3,200.”
During a debate in early October, Foley argued against the claim.
“I never fired anybody at Bibb,” Foley said. “I bought the company in 1985. It was failing. I turned it around and, frankly, saved the company. I owned it for 11 years. I sold it in 1996 and it had new management and new owners. Two years later, they closed the plant and, yes, unfortunately, when they closed that plant, several hundred people lost their jobs. But I was not involved at the time, so it’s very unfair to blame me for it.”
Foley, who has caught up with Malloy in recent polls, spent the day traveling the state on his campaign bus and rallying with other Republican candidates in Darien.
Clinton’s visit comes just a day after President Barack Obama’s visit to Bridgeport, a city where voter turnout will be crucial for Democrats.
Clinton told the crowd at the University of Hartford campus Sunday that all the polls on the races are assuming 25 percent lower turnout than in two years ago. He said they assume a 40 percent drop in the African-American vote, a 30 percent drop in the Latino vote, and a 55 percent drop in the votes of people 25 and under. He said if every student at the college knew the Republicans plan to repeal student loan reforms, which are currently law, then they would get out and vote.
He also railed against allowing the Bush tax cuts to be extended to millionaires. He said it’s just bad economics because “if you already got more money than you need, you can’t possibly spend it.“ He said that money needs to be spent.
When Clinton left office, the country was enjoying what would be the last budget surplus over the last decade. Clinton alleged that when Republicans took over, they repealed “pay-as-you-go,” which was budget legislation designed to control spending. He said Republican leadership during his administration disavowed his offer of a balanced budget amendment because “they knew it was going to be based on arithmetic.”
Of Republican efforts to blame Obama for the current trillion-dollar budget deficit, Clinton said he “like to see anybody, and I mean anybody, get behind a locomotive going straight down hill at 200 mph and stop it in 10 seconds.”
“Now what’s that got to do with you?” the former president asked. “This is the environment in which your new governor will take office.”
“You’re right, we’re not out of the hole. And it was a real big hole. At least we did what our parents taught us to do when we get in a hole. We did stop digging, unlike them,” Clinton said. &“You gave them eight years to dig the hole. Give us four years to get out.”
Republican governors for the past 20 years.
While it looked as if the race for governor might be Malloy’s to lose, Majority Leader Denise Merrill, who is running for Secretary of the State, said the tightening of the race in the polls can be attributed to voters’ attention span. She said voters are just now starting to pay attention.
West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka said many of the races, including the governor’s race, could come down to voter turnout. He said it’s tough to rekindle the enthusiasm of 2008, which is part of the reason for Clinton and Obama’s visits to the state.
But Slifka also believes polling in the era of cellphones may not be as reliable as in years past. He predicted polling strategies will change over the next year after the results are tallied Tuesday.
While polling strategies may be examined, negative campaign ads continue to work if the latest poll is to be believed.
Foley’s current two-point lead in the last Public Policy Polling survey is attributed to his attack ads. The poll released Saturday puts Foley ahead of Malloy, 49 to 47 percent, within the polls margin of error.
“A look inside the numbers makes it clear that attacks on Malloy, rather than an increase in voter affection toward Foley, are what has made this race so competitive in the final days,“ a press release accompanying the poll says. “A month ago Foley’s favorability rating was 41/40 and now it’s almost identical at 41/38. Voters aren’t really warming up to him.“
Malloy’s numbers have seen a precipitous drop. At the beginning of the month he posted a stellar 50/29 favorability spread and that’s gone all the way down now to 39/40, a 22 point decline on the margin in just four weeks time, pollsters concluded.
“Here’s where we are – this is a very close race, and we will enter Election Day in a position to win.,“ Malloy’s campaign manager Dan Kelly said in an emailed statement. “We have one of the strongest turnout operations that Connecticut has ever seen. Democrats are organized like no other this year, with a smart and professional field operation, including many of the same folks who effectively targeted and turned out our supporters in the primary.“
Malloy was outspent in the primary and a poll released a day before the August primary had him trailing his Democratic opponent Ned Lamont. However, when the results rolled in the party overwhelmingly supported Malloy. But voter turnout during the primary was low as many voters were turned off by the negative campaigning. Malloy ended up defeating Lamont by beating him in all but 13 of the state’s 169 cities and towns.
The last state Elections Enforcement report shows Foley has loaned his campaign $10.8 million and raised about $1.6 million from individuals. Malloy received $2.5 million for the primary, and $6 million for the general election campaign through the state’s public financing system.