Can Mitt Romney win Connecticut’s seven electoral votes? Will wrestling magnate Linda McMahon edge out Democrat Chris Murphy for a seat in the United States Senate? Can Andrew Roraback return the state’s 5th Congressional District to Republican hands? Yes, yes, and yes.
The Romney question was all the rage last week. As my colleague Heath Fahle pointed out in a numbers-crunching op-ed for CTNJ recently, Romney still faces an uphill battle in the Nutmeg State, but the fact that he has pulled to within seven points of the incumbent president in the latest Q-Poll is nothing short of amazing, especially considering the fact that Barack Obama won Connecticut by 22 points only four years ago.
The improved fortunes of Republicans in Connecticut have prompted The Hartford Courant to editorialize about “a slowly rising tide” for the GOP, while adding that “undeniably, a political leveling is afoot.”
National Democrats think they’ve found a formula that works: run against George W. Bush and the Tea Party and assert that any Republican, if elected, would advocate for radical change, ban abortion and contraception and return us to the policies that prompted the financial crisis in the first place. That just might work in some areas of the country.
But in Connecticut, we have a Democratic governor who is one of the only politicians whose approval ratings rival those of the profoundly unpopular Bush. So what are Republicans who want to win in the Nutmeg State to do?
At Roraback’s rowdy Torrington celebration the night of the Aug. 14 primary, Republican State Central Committee member John Morris told me flatly that Roraback’s Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Esty, would have to answer for Gov. Dannel Malloy.
“Gov. Malloy is very unpopular,” said Morris. “Esty will carry that baggage and that will no doubt help Andrew.”
Just as it’s not fair for his antagonists to blame President Obama alone for the perilous situation he inherited from his predecessor, so too is it a mistake to point the finger at Malloy for the mess handed to him by the corrupt John Rowland and the do-nothing Jodi Rell.
But it was Malloy who made the decision to push for the largest tax increase in Connecticut history rather than rely more heavily on spending cuts to bring the budget under control. It would be one thing if the revenue hikes had succeeded in getting our fiscal house in order, but earlier this week Comptroller Kevin Lembo confirmed that the state finished the 2011-12 fiscal year with a $143 million general fund deficit.
And if you believe a recent report from the UConn Center of Economic Analysis, the state’s economy is still in decline even as the rest of the nation has begun to slowly recover from the great recession. Ouch!
And it was Malloy who embarked on a corporate spending spree, most recently lavishing up to $115 million in incentives to keep the world’s largest hedge fund, whose CEO raked in $3.9 billion last year, in Connecticut. To Malloy’s credit, he conducts his crony capitalism legally and in the open, while the felonious Rowland preferred old-fashioned graft negotiated in smoke-filled rooms.
And it was Malloy who elected to spend lots of time out-of-state, traveling to a tony economic forum in Switzerland and securing regular face time on cable news shows as an attack dog for national Democrats.
But perhaps most damaging of all, Malloy deeply offended one of his natural constituencies—organized labor—when he kicked off his education reform initiative by flippantly suggesting that all public school teachers needed to do to secure tenure was show up for four years.
Even if Malloy had good reasons for doing all those things, they make easy targets for independents and Republicans eager to regain influence in a one-party state. And as much as the GOP irritates them, Connecticut’s aggrieved public school teachers just might enjoy staying home and watching the Democratic governor dangling before the electorate like a pinata.
Terry Cowgill blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com, is the editor of ctessentialpolitics.com and was an award-winning editor and senior writer for The Lakeville Journal Company. He can be found on Twitter @terrycowgill.