Josalee Thrift photo

While Gov. Dannel P. Malloy still languishes in the polls, tied with his likely GOP opponent and unable to crack the 50 percent approval threshold, the odds that he will be re-elected in November are improving slightly with each passing week.

As Malloy campaigns to stay in Hartford for four more years, a curious phenomenon is occurring: “Dannel” has once again become “Dan.” Malloy spent the better part of six years trying to become governor. He was known then as “Dan” — the regular guy from Stamford whose record as mayor of that thriving city qualified him to run the state.

But when he finally prevailed in 2010 over Republican Tom Foley, Malloy promptly announced he wanted to be known as “Dannel P. Malloy” from here on out.

“I like the name that my mother gave me,” he said shortly after ordering new business cards sporting the governor’s title. “I insisted that we go back to my formal name as opposed to Dan.”

It was a revealing about-face. The nurse’s son from Stamford ran as Dan, but after he was elected he wanted a name that befitted the high office he held. Or, less charitably, he preferred Dannel all along and Dan was nothing more than a gimmick to ingratiate himself with the great unwashed who disdain formality.

Be that as it may, I cooperated, as did my colleagues who write about state government and politics. Dannel deserved the benefit of the doubt and besides, as someone who himself has a funny name, I’ve always had a policy of calling people whatever they want to be called. It’s only fair.

But Malloy’s harshest critic, ironically Democrat Jonathan Pelto, seized on the name change and tried to used it as a clever metaphor for what he sees as the governor’s transformation from friend of public education to foe.

Now it looks like Dannel has swung back into Dan mode. Out of curiosity, I visited Dannel’s campaign website last week and, lo and behold, he now wants to be known as Dan again — as least to those who might vote to keep him as governor.

Again, it might seem like a small thing, but the flip-flop-flip on the name change is nothing short of breathtaking. It should rightly be viewed as an obvious symptom of yet another attempt at reinvention. The question at this point is: Will it work?

The good news for Malloy is there doesn’t appear to be a tremendous groundswell of support for pesky Pelto, the erstwhile Malloy supporter and darling-of-the-unions who has just announced an independent run for governor.

Pelto’s announcement must have sent tremors through the governor’s office. As I have noted before, a healthy Pelto candidacy is sure to drain votes away from Malloy and could ensure the victory of likely Republican nominee Tom Foley.

But it appears that some key Democratic constituents are rallying the troops. Much to Pelto’s dismay, a political action committee of the American Federation of Teachers recommended earlier this month that the union endorse Malloy. As it becomes apparent that they really have no viable alternative, other public employee unions, many of whom have grown estranged from the governor, are sure to follow the AFT’s lead.

Meanwhile, the state’s economy continues to take baby steps toward a full recovery from the Great Recession. The 6.9-percent unemployment rate for April was the lowest statewide since January 2009, and the labor force saw its first yearly gain since March 2011. The state’s private sector picked up 1,800 jobs in April.

Yes, Malloy embraced one of the largest tax increases in state history, but that was two and half years ago — a lifetime in the minds of distracted voters. And of course Malloy recently stumbled when he had to say “never mind” to his ill-considered idea of giving all state taxpayers a $55 rebate.

But according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with 0.9 percent growth for 2013, Connecticut’s economy is no longer shrinking. The growth is paltry but at least it deprives state Republicans of a powerful talking point. Meanwhile, an increase in the minimum wage will surely please the Democratic base, while Dan’s veto of a bill banning chocolate milk in schools will sit well with the anti-PC crowd.

Then again, running on the “Dan economy,” which now ranks Connecticut 39th in growth instead of dead-last in the “Dannel” era, isn’t terribly compelling either. But I’m sure Dan will take credit for what Dannel failed to deliver.

Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at and is news editor of The Berkshire Record in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill.

Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, is a Substack columnist and is the retired managing editor of The Berkshire Edge in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill or email him here.

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