FiveThirtyEight.com has released their latest ratings of every 2018 governor’s race, and Connecticut is labeled as “likely Democratic.” It’s not hard to see why. Every single general election poll since the primary has given Ned Lamont a lead, though some leads have been more significant than others. FiveThirtyEight puts Lamont’s chances of election at 82.4 percent.
2016, though, was a hard lesson that statistical probabilities aren’t guarantees. So with that in mind, here are five ways Bob Stefanowski can beat Ned Lamont in order to become Connecticut’s 89th governor.
1. Shut Up About the Income Tax Already and Talk About Other Things
Bob, your income tax plan is bad. It’s unworkable and all kinds of bonkers and everyone knows it. The fact that you’re digging in your heels and doubling down on it does not endear you to anyone but that 30 percent of Republican primary voters you picked up in August. Worse, it’s the only thing anyone knows about you.
The angry old guys who make up a big chunk of the Republican Party complain about taxes a lot, and that’s what the Stefanowski campaign feels like. Being governor is about more than just being a tax scold, though.
Besides, even if big tax cuts always resulted in outsize economic benefits, which they don’t, a healthier economy won’t fix issues like climate change, energy, crumbling infrastructure, and health care. If Stefanowski could talk about those issues without mentioning tax cuts or the fantasy of zero-based budgeting, he might be able to sway some of Ned Lamont’s less committed supporters.
Not that I think he will, but things can sometimes change fast at the end of a campaign.
2. The Trump Effect is … Good?
We all know Donald Trump is an albatross around Stefanowski’s neck, but what if he weren’t? All of the conventional wisdom could be wrong and Trump might be able to supercharge his base just enough for Bob to squeak by. Trouble is, he’d have to do it without scaring away moderates, because “base” elections for Republicans don’t work in Connecticut. There simply aren’t enough of them.
But hey, let’s pretend. Dan Malloy got into office largely because Barack Obama did a big rally in Bridgeport just before the election. What if Trump does the same thing and holds one of his lie-filled hate-fests here? And what if it didn’t just make everyone angry at him?
This one’s pretty unlikely. It’s not impossible, though, so keep an eye out for Air Force One in November.
3. Bob Gets Lucky and the Blue Wave Fizzles
Voter turnout and composition metrics right now are based in part on an electorate that is much more excited about voting for Democrats than Republicans. Unfortunately for Dems, the blue wave may rely too much on getting people who usually stay home to vote. What if young voters don’t show, turnout is just as depressed as 2014, and all those potential new voters who were going to help Lamont across the finish line vanish? Republicans would hold the House and Senate, Democrats would book two more years of twice-weekly therapy sessions, and Bob Stefanowski would go into the governor’s mansion.
4. Ned Self-Destructs
Ned Lamont has proven he’s a closer yet. In 2006 he tried and failed to keep up the momentum after winning his primary against Joe Lieberman, but lost to him in November. He couldn’t finish off Dan Malloy in 2010, either. He’s vulnerable to late runs.
And here’s the thing: Ned’s support is weak. He looks solid, but that’s because Connecticut voters have three crappy choices and he’s the one they dislike least.
This is the scenario that’s most likely. If Lamont starts to fade, watch out.
5. Oz Griebel Suddenly Becomes Big
No, I don’t think this is happening either. It’s too late in the campaign for Oz to really make a run. Still, enough voters could get fed up with the two major parties that a third-party candidate starts to look really appealing. Polls suggest Griebel is taking votes from Lamont just a little more than Stefanowski, so if he catches fire the Republican may benefit. Maybe.
An Oz Griebel around the 20 percent mark starts becoming very dangerous. My guess is that if Oz was going to break out, though, he’d have done it already. He hasn’t. We have a few weeks left, true, but it’s very late in the game.
All of these scenarios are challenging ones for Stefanowski, and the nearer we get to November, the worse those options get. If I had to bet right now, I’d put my money on Lamont. Still, the path to victory exists.
It’s now or never, Bob. What are you going to do?
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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