The state of Connecticut during presidential campaigns sort of mirrors our reputation nationally: we’re boring. The land of steady habits hasn’t voted Republican since Greenwich native George Herbert Walker Bush was looking to succeed his boss, Ronald Reagan, in 1988. Most recently, Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, by a whopping 17 points in 2012.
Connecticut is hardly a battleground state and so after the primaries are over, little attention is paid to the us and our paltry seven electoral votes.
But while registered Democrats still outnumber Republicans in Connecticut by a ratio of 7-4 (with indies outnumbering those in either party), some observers perceive an energy chasm between the passionate boosters of GOP nominee Donald Trump and the relatively tepid support for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
With characteristic hyperbole, state Republican Chairman J.R. Romano told the Republican-American’s Paul Hughes last week that, “There is no question that there is a massive enthusiasm gap between Hillary Clinton supporters and Donald Trump supporters.”
Now we should expect that kind of talk from someone like Romano, a fierce partisan and a Trump supporter himself. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s wrong. The Republican Party has made some modest gains over the last few years in registration and in party representation in the General Assembly, where a flip of only four seats in November would result in a GOP takeover of the Senate for the first time since the 1990s.
And in two years Republicans in the General Assembly might be running with an unpopular Democratic governor on the ballot, which would give them additional impetus and energy. But if Clinton wins the presidency, it’s looking increasingly obvious that Dannel Malloy heads to Washington for a cabinet post, most likely transportation. That would mean Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman takes over and it’s an open question as to whether Wyman, who will be 72, is up to running the show as anything more than a placeholder.
Back to the here-and-now. It’s pretty obvious why Trump supporters have more enthusiasm than their Hillary counterparts. Though it’s not entirely clear what kind, Trump represents change — just as Obama did in 2008. Hillary essentially represents more of Obama, which is not much of a liability in Connecticut, but it does not generate the kind of enthusiasm that a wholesale changing of the guard would.
Another phenomenon Romano might be talking about reared its head again this week. On Monday, former President Bill Clinton will pay a holiday visit to Connecticut — not to campaign publicly for his wife, but to do what all national campaigns do: use us as a piggy bank.
The Big Dog, as the ex-president is affectionately known, will be entertaining big donors in Litchfield County. He’ll start the day at an undisclosed location in Warren billed as a “lakeside afternoon.” My guess is the affair will be held at one of those fancy estates on the north shore of Lake Waramaug. Tickets start at $2,700 and rise to 10 times that amount. The most generous contributors will get a host reception and a photo with the Big Dog.
That event will be followed by a cocktail hour in neighboring New Preston. Then Bill will travel to Greenwich, where major donors will be treated to “an art tour and conversation.” As is the case with most fundraisers, the media and the general public are not welcome. Hey, donors want to be treated as insiders. The last thing they want is to rub elbows with the great unwashed
“I’ve gotten calls and emails from a number of Democrats who aren’t happy about the structure of these events,’’ Torrington attorney Audrey Blondin told The Courant. Blondin supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who came close to winning the Connecticut primary with 46.4 percent of the vote.
“This is exactly the reason why Hillary Clinton has had such a hard time bringing over Bernie Sanders supporters,’’ Blondin declared.
Indeed, rank-and-file Democrats in the primary favored Sanders over Hillary Clinton, who won the big three counties (Fairfield, Hartford and New Haven), where the money and power are, but was trounced by Sanders in the rural counties by anywhere from 12 to 22 points.
“I don’t think there is an enthusiasm gap,” Malloy, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, told The Republican American — and presumably with a straight face.
But the problem for Connecticut Republicans lies in exploiting that gap. Since they stand a slim chance of winning over disaffected Sanders voters, they’ll have to hope that many of them can’t bring themselves to vote for Corporate Hillary and will simply stay home.
The betting from here is that in the end most of the Berniacs will be so appalled at the thought of the vulgarian Trump in the White House that they’ll hold their noses and vote in sufficient numbers to give Hillary a victory of 10 points or more.
Not exactly a bold prediction but you heard it here.