At this point, it’s almost become a cliche to label your political opponent “desperate.” It evokes images of a boxer on the ropes lashing out lamely at a superior fighter who is destined to roll over the injured warrior. But it’s hard to find another word to describe the tactics of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who personally and through surrogates, has unleashed a torrent of ugly attacks on Republican nominee Tom Foley.

And just think: these attacks came before Wednesday’s Quinnipiac poll that showed Foley leading Malloy by six points. Now we can only guess what kind of offensive awaits Foley in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 4 election.

It really was surpising to see Malloy once again raise the issue of Foley’s actions 20 years ago during his stewardship of the Bibb Company. Granted, Foley does not come up smelling like roses in any reasonable examination of his company’s ownership of the troubled Georgia textile company.

But you would think that Malloy, in one of his most frequently aired TV ads, could do better during his rematch with Foley than to resurrect an issue that was litigated four years ago. I’m sure Malloy’s people thought they were clever to mix the Bibb attacks of some of Foley’s former GOP rivals with clips from his disastrous appearance at a dying mill in Sprague.

Still, if it’s true that comedians need fresh material, it’s doubly true in the political arena, where bored voters suffering from Bibb fatigue will change the channel faster than you can say Kenny Bania’s Ovaltine bit.

Then there was the matter last week of state Sen. Beth Bye and Comptroller Kevin Lembo, two openly gay politicians who held a press conference calling on Foley to reject an endorsement he received from the Family Institute of Connecticut Action Committee.

Lembo and Bye were in high dudgeon over Foley receiving the nod from an “anti-gay” organization. In a fit of hyperbole, Lembo called the endorsement a “kiss of death.” This despite the fact that Foley is pro-choice on abortion and, while he’s opposed to gay marriage, has vowed to do absolutely nothing to change Connecticut’s law permitting it if he’s elected governor.

As evidenced by the backdrop of the Malloy-Wyman campaign signs, the event was obviously coordinated with the governor’s re-election machine. It gave the impression that two respectable gay public servants were being used as props to attack Malloy’s opponent, not for a public policy position, but because a group they object to thinks he would make a better chief executive than the current governor.

I used to have a man crush on Lembo. He’s an independent voice and one of the only elected officials telling the whole truth about the state’s fiscal health. Now he’s resorted to performing as a political hack.

In an attempt to capitalize on Bill Clinton’s enduring popularity in Connecticut, the Malloy campaign had the former president come to New Haven last week to give a shot of adrenaline to Malloy’s moribund gubernatorial campaign. Clinton spoke to a half-empty ballroom at the Omni and was followed by Malloy, who trotted out the argument that Foley is — get this — a pessimist.

That’s as tired as the assertion that your opponent is desperate. Are we expected to believe that any political candidate is rooting for his opponent to succeed? Yes, Malloy is desperate all right. And he is probably dumbfounded that he could lose to a cranky guy who’s never even run for dogcatcher and who has yet to offer much at all in the way of specific solutions to the many problems facing the state.

But that’s what happens when you’re guiding the ship of state through a painfully slow economic recovery. You can lose to a pessimist because a lot of voters are also pessimistic. And you can lose to someone who’s just as unappealing as you are because — he’s not you.

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.

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