The governor’s race may have just come unknotted, if a new poll is to be believed.
Everyone, including myself, has been assuming that this would be a repeat of 2010: down to the wire and too close to call. But a new poll from the New York Times, CBS News, and YouGov suggests that Republican Tom Foley has actually taken a lead over Gov. Dannel P. Malloy just two weeks before the Republican primary, and less than 100 days before the November election.
Here’s the numbers that matter: Foley leads Malloy 42-33 percent, a decisive 9-point margin. If leaners are factored in, Foley is up over Malloy by a still-robust 48-41 percent.
The cross-tabs are where the poll gets interesting, though. For example, Foley leads Malloy among 18- to 29-year-olds 48-38 percent with leaners added in, which is a shockingly large lead in a demographic that has been increasingly Democratic. People between the ages of 30 and 44 are the only age group that Malloy is winning.
Foley also is doing much better with African-American voters; he still loses the group but manages to grab 30 percent, with leaners counted in. This is a remarkably strong number for a Republican in a northeastern state, and may suggest that Foley’s efforts to woo urban and non-white voters may be bearing fruit.
If either of these numbers hold up through the general election, it’ll be a huge shock to Democrats. According to exit polls, Malloy won the 18- to 29-year-old demographic 65-34 percent in 2010, while Obama won that group by about 30 points in 2012. Obama also won African-American voters in Connecticut, 93-8 percent in 2012. Young people and African-Americans have clearly been vital pieces of the Democratic coalition. If Democrats lose their grip on these constituencies, they are headed for big losses.
It’s not all bad news for Malloy supporters. Malloy’s lead among women (53-35 percent) is strong, and neither man has cracked 50 percent of the total. This poll may also be an outlier; we have very little else in the way of polling to actually look at, so there’s no way to be sure.
It’s also possible that the poll’s methodology is flawed. For example, the number of African-American voters is about 4 percent of the total, which is very small. In 2010, which was a similar political year, they comprised 8 percent of the electorate. Also, Quinnipiac’s May poll of the race shows Malloy winning 18- to 29-year-olds 55-23 percent, which is much more in line with what I’d expect to see. The poll is also an Internet poll, as opposed to a phone poll, and while YouGov has a relatively decent track record with these there are some methodological flaws built in. The users who respond are ones who are most interested, and users without Internet access aren’t included, so it’s hard to get a good random sampling.
The campaign also hasn’t really started in earnest, yet, either. The Malloy team is clearly keeping their powder dry until after the Republican primary while Foley and rival John McKinney have been going after the governor and their GOP opponent more or less equally.
There’s also that pesky “other” category in this poll, which is right around 5 percent. That’s probably the effect of independent candidate Jonathan Pelto, and as the election gets closer and Dems get antsy about Foley winning, some of that may bleed back toward Malloy.
That doesn’t mean that this poll shouldn’t snap Democrats out of their midsummer slumber. It should. Democrats aren’t showing a lot of fire thus far, which may be very dangerous. If this poll is even remotely accurate, it shows an electorate that is ready for change. The electorate is grumpy, and has been for years. They may be gearing up to take their frustrations out on the man who promised things would get better.
So what does this mean for the race as a whole? Well, at this point in the 2010 race, Malloy was leading Foley by 11 points. That narrowed, of course, but Malloy now finds himself the underdog. This is a role the governor seems to relish, and we ought to expect him to fight back hard once the leaves start to turn, but it guarantees nothing.
It also may force people to wonder, now that he’s in the lead, what Tom Foley might actually be like as governor. Foley needs to come up with an answer — before the Malloy campaign does. In short, expect a stormy fall as Democrats realize just how bad things are.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.