Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Poll: Rell Stays Strong

Blumenthal Clear Choice Among Democrats--Bysiewicz Second

New Quinnipiac Poll

Jodi Rell wasn't supposed to do this well. Her first budget was supposed to sink her astronomical numbers, or so the conventional wisdom went. Then, when her approval ratings remained high, the fallout from her first legislative session was supposed to drag her down to more reasonable levels, but apparently that hasn't happened either. Previous poll numbers were inflated, said her opponents, from a scare over her health in January and Rowland's sentencing in April.

Jodi Rell has been governor for a year, and her approval ratings are as high as they ever were, down only a single percentage point from the astronomical 80% approval given to her in April. Quinnipiac University is reporting that her approval rating is 70%, and her disapproval rating is down a point to 9%.

Further in to the poll are the reasons why Rell is so popular. 82% say she has strong leadership qualities, 75% say she cares about the needs and problems of people like them, 86% say she has a likable personality, 79% say she works well with other political leaders, and, when asked whether they thought she was too liberal, too conservative or just about right, 75% said they believed she was about right.

She's a likable moderate, and people in Connecticut approve of that.

Of course, the fact that only 33% thought were either somewhat or very dissatisfied with the way things are going in Connecticut helps her a lot.

Governor's Race

More bad news for Democratic candidates in this poll, although it's still pretty early. Rell is favored over all the Democratic candidates besides Blumenthal by very wide margins. She is favored over Blumenthal himself 49-37, which may be troubling for her as she hasn't quite hit the 50% mark incumbents are expected to be at in that matchup. Still, since it's vanishingly unlikely that Blumenthal will actually run this time, that matchup probably won't happen.

The numbers for the Democratic nomination are pretty useless, because they include Blumenthal, who is favored by 49% of Democrats. Interestingly, the fundraising-impaired Susan Bysiewicz comes in second with 12%, John DeStefano third with 9%, Kevin Sullivan fourth with 7% and Dan Malloy fifth with only 3%. But again, this number isn't all that helpful for figuring out where things will be a little over a year from now, because of Blumenthal's inclusion. At least Dodd has been dropped from that particular question.

The most interesting number has to do with the attempts of several Democratic campaigns, most notably John DeStefano's, to link Rell to Rowland's administration. Quinnipiac asked: "Jodi Rell was Governor Rowland's Lieutenant Governor for about 10 years. Does Jodi Rell's association with John Rowland make you more likely to vote for her for governor, less likely to vote for her for governor, or doesn't it make a difference?"

78% said it made no difference.

Other Politicians

George Bush did poorly in Connecticut (again). He has only a 36% approval rating here. Both U.S. Senators have approval ratings in the 60s, with little recent movement in either direction. The other statewide figure whose approval rating was measured by the poll was Blumenthal, who is approved of by 73%. This is also consistent with his other ratings.

Other recent polls from Quinnipiac:
April 6, 2005
February 18, 2005
January 13, 2005


RealCTDem said...

Remember when Clarence Thomas was appointed to the Supreme Court, he went in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing and he was asked what he thought about Roe v. Wade? He said he had never thought about it. I remember thinking at the time, any legal scholar worth a damn has thought about Roe v. Wade, right? And I figured there were only two ways to read his response: (1) he is telling the truth, in which case he is unfit to serve as a Supreme Court Justice because he has never thought about one of the most significant legal issues of our time, or (2) he is not telling the truth, in which case he is unfit to serve as a Supreme Court Justice because he is a liar.

That situation keeps coming back to me when I hear Jodi Rell say she had no idea what was going on in the Rowland administration while she served as his Lt. Gov. for TEN YEARS. Seems to me there are only two ways to read her insistence that she knew nothing: (1) she is telling the truth, in which case she is either incredibly thick or incredibly naive (neither of which I believe to be accurate) and thus she is unfit to serve as Governor because she cannot handle the demands of the job, or (2) she is not telling the truth, in which case she is unfit to serve as Governor because she is a liar.

I am stunned that 3/4 of CT thinks it doesn't matter that Jodi Rell was Rowland's right-hand woman for a whole DECADE. It matters. She either knew, or she didn't know, and either of those outcomes should be of serious concern to the voters of this state.

But maybe I'm the only one who sees it that way?

Anonymous said...

Real CT Dem,

You are not the only one who sees it that way...but everyone who does is a died-in-the-wool Democrat. They are not the swing voters who decide CT elections.

I think people like Rell so much for two reasons-- first, who she is (a likable, honest woman thrust into an unenviable position and handling it with grace and class). Second, that she has staked out a "moderate" ground on most issues, from the budget (she raised estate taxes on the wealthy) to social issues (e.g., stem cell research, civil unions).

Too early to say that she is unbeatable, though. But she will not be beat through linking her with one cares. She will be beat only through the Democrats having their own vision for CT that differs from hers.

Ebpie said...

I think the most interesting poll number is the one pertaining to leadership. Both DeStefano and Malloy have hit her on that issue repeatedly, but 82% of people in CT think she is a strong leader! That has to take some of the wind out of their sails.

Rell's approval ratings are nothing short of phenomenal. Once the campaign heats up I am sure she will take a hit, but she is starting off in excellent position.

Genghis Conn said...


It's hard to know just how involved Rell was with Rowland's administration in general. So far, anything we say about it is pure conjecture. Is it plausible that she was actually kept out of the loop? I suppose it could be. Rowland, remember, formed a clique around him of old friends and shady political associates. Rell wasn't part of that group, and so may have known very little beyond suspicions. But then again, maybe she did know more. We can't tell without evidence either way, and so far there is none. Rowland certainly hasn't said, and neither have any of his buddies.


You're right about Democrats' best strategy being to outline a plausible, compelling vision of CT that is visibly different from Rell's. DeStefano seems to have ideas, but can't draw them all together.


A good point about leadership. Democrats might argue truth vs. perception, however.

mjames said...

I think we are wasting our time talking about her link to Rell. Do I think there is a link there: definitely. But I'm not a swing voter and according to this poll, the majority of Connecticut thinks she is clean. I think we need to use these numbers to figure out a way to beat her. All the favorable ratings seem to center around the fact that she is a likable person. So the Democrats should start trying to dismiss the value of these numbers. How does her 'likability' increase job growth? Why didn't she use this 'likability' to go down to Washington to lobby for Eastern Connecticut's naval bases? She has weaknesses that need to find their way into the newspapers. Maybe a poll should be done asking people what they are most frustrated with in Connecticut, then show how ineffective she's been in solving each one of them.

Becky said...

Great discussion! I completely agree with all of you that the way we will beat Rell is on issues.

What I am pleased to see is that despite holding STATEWIDE offices that offer great exposure both Susan Bysiewicz and Kevin Sullivan poll similarly to DeStefano who has never run for statewide office.

What I would be interested in seeing a poll without Blumenthal in it because he has not indicated he is running and he may or may not run – who knows? Where do you think his supporters go if he doesn’t run? DeStefano is in the race to stay – what do you think the final field will be? What does the poll look like then?

Aldon Hynes said...

I remember when my wife first ran for State Rep. People told me that 80% of people don’t know who their State Rep is. During the campaign, I found this to be fairly true. It was surprising the number of people that asked Kim if she would have to move to Washington if she was elected.

I think the same applies in the gubernatorial race right now. With over a year to go, I suspect most people don’t know a lot about the race and don’t especially care. Yes, people who read Connecticut Local Politics know and care, but that is an exception.

Will people look more closely at Rell’s record as we approach the election? We can all prognosticate, but it is probably too early to tell. DeStefano and Malloy, as well as DiNardo have started taking shots at Rell, but how many people are paying attention to such shots? Again, I suspect it is only the ‘inside politics’ people.

In terms of what the poll means for the Democratic contenders, I am pretty pleased that Mayor DeStefano, who has not run for statewide office before is doing as well as Bysiewicz who has run for statewide office twice already. So much of the early game is name recognition, and DeStefano, and even Malloy to a lesser extent are doing well in this, this far out.

ctblogger said...

Aldon is absolutely right.

No one cares about a election next fall when it July 2005. Besides political junkies like myself and the people posting here, do you think most people can name all the democratic challengers?

Linking Rell with Rowland is also fair game in my opinion simply because of the fact that she was Lt. Gov for nine years and if a candidate can make the case that nothing has really change since the Rowland administraion, they might have a make that stick in some voters minds. Personally, I don't like negative campaigns but they are effective if used properly.

Again, it's way too early to really read into these numbers. Most people are more concerned about staying cool than thinking about who they would vote for governor.

Genghis Conn said...


I don't think Blumenthal supporters would naturally gravitate to a specific candidate. It could be very wide open if Blumenthal declares he isn't running. Right now, DeStefano is way ahead in raising money, but we really have no other way to tell where the candidates are lining up. Interesting question, though.

As for the final field... There have been rumors of Bysiewicz dropping out, but she's very stubborn and so will probably stay in. DeStefano will definitely stay in, and I think Malloy will, too. Sullivan...? Hard to say, since he isn't even in yet.


It's hard to interpret the Democratic governor's race numbers because of Blumenthal, but it's very interesting that Bysiewicz isn't polling higher, given her high name recognition.

Of course, by this time next year everyone will be well aware of who the candidates are.

Genghis Conn said...


You're right that people aren't paying attention now, but the poll does at least give us an idea of where Rell might be strong or vulnerable. The fact that so many people say that ties to Rowland don't matter is very interesting. Of course, that could change, too.

DeanFan84 said...

My feeling is that most CT residents do not yet have an INFORMED opinion of Jodi Rell. Therefore, I would believe these poll numbers are just scratching the surface, largely based on name recognition, and not representative of any real base of support.

In terms of polling Democrats as to who they would choose in the Primary, I think it would be much more interesting to see how DTC members lean. Nothing against rank and file Dems, but honestly, how many of them are tuned in at this point?

Is there a chance we could devise our own polling sheet? I would be more than happy to visit a few different DTC's and report back with the numbers.

Anonymous said...

C'mon guys. I think you are dreaming if you think people don't have an informed view of Rell. I agree that it is too early to judge the Democratic candidates, because they don't have name recognition.

Democrats will not win by trying to demonize Rell or try to make her into something she is not. The only way Democrats win is by putting together a coherent alternative vision....something not done for the last 15 years.

I think Genghis is right...DeStefano is closest with his "regionalization" theme, but he's not quite there yet. My prediction is none of the Democrats will pull together a vision, you will have a Curry-esqe campaign of "I don't like the person in office, so vote for me"....and Rell will win with 55%+ of the vote.

Here's an interesting thread for all the Democrats AND Republicans out there...what is the winning vision for your party?

Anonymous said...

C'mon guys. I think you are dreaming if you think people don't have an informed view of Rell. I agree that it is too early to judge the Democratic candidates, because they don't have name recognition.

Democrats will not win by trying to demonize Rell or try to make her into something she is not. The only way Democrats win is by putting together a coherent alternative vision....something not done for the last 15 years.

I think Genghis is right...DeStefano is closest with his "regionalization" theme, but he's not quite there yet. My prediction is none of the Democrats will pull together a vision, you will have a Curry-esqe campaign of "I don't like the person in office, so vote for me"....and Rell will win with 55%+ of the vote.

Here's an interesting thread for all the Democrats AND Republicans out there...what is the winning vision for your party?

DeanFan84 said...

Anonymous Republican--

You are the one dreaming. Outside of Hartford insiders, no one really knows Jodi Rell. Walk down a random street in Madison, New Haven, Milford, etc, and ask them what they know and like about Jodi, -- and in return, you will receive a number of blank stares.

And you are nuts if you don't think 2006 will be a real contest. Underneath it all, Rell is much weaker than Rowland ever was. And whichever Dem takes the primary will be much stronger than Bill Curry. Plus, statewide the Democratic Party will have a very well-funded GOTV effort. (which is not to mention continuing Bush-backlash, Iraq War frustrations, the Sub Base closure, etc.)

So, personally, I like our chances.

Ebpie said...


Rell has been in office for over a year and in that time has signed off on some pretty significant legislation including a civil union bill that generated national attention. What more does she need to do to convince liberals like you that people know who she is? Democrats seem incapable of grasping the fact that CT likes Jodi Rell.

RealCTDem said...

What about the significant legislation she DIDN'T sign -- that is, the ethics reforms she claimed she supported, but then vetoed when the Democratic-controlled legislature made them law? I think her record will provide plenty of fodder for both praise and criticism. The problem (for Dems) is finding a messenger who can deliver the criticism effectively.

On a side note, if nobody cares about Rell's links to Rowland, and he's in jail, will that mean nobody cares that Malloy was investigated (and cleared)?

DeanFan84 said...


Rell gets credit for the Civil Union bill? Huh?

Oh yeah, she should get credit for not vetoing it! Spin it all you want, but what a load of crap.

If you can give me a few more details about what she did to get the legislation passed, maybe you can convince me that I am wrong on this.

But I'm not giving her any kudos for not blocking a civil rights bill.

Ebpie said...


I used the civil union bill as an example of how Jodi Rell has become a well known public figure. I didn’t say anything about whether or not she deserves credit. I think it is incredibly foolish for Democrats, like you, to keep on sticking their heads in the sand and pretending that the sky high polling numbers Rell has received for over a year are not based on reality. As a Republican that is fine with me, but if your party wants the executive office in 2006 I recommend you face the fact that she is a popular governor.

Julio Gonzalez said...

Rell's numbers are high because she is (1) not John Rowland, (2) it's too early for a broadcast critique of her record, and (3) voters are not responding to these surveys with an election in mind.

The key point is that her high "popularity" does not translate into an automatic electoral victory. There is substantial peel off when a horse-race with Democrats are introduced. And no TV buys, debates, or real campaigning yet!

Civil unions, campaign finance reform, privatization, open-space, etc. are all important issues. But the bulk of swing voters are going to decide through a mix of more mainstream economic and cultural concerns. They will ask: who is best equipped to strengthen the economy and my material well-being? Who is going to protect my family's economic security?

Gov. Rell's flip-floppy moderation might help her avoid negatives. But it is not positioning her to be the best candidate to make the independent-minded swing voters think she will provide jobs or economic security. Her response to the sad economic news so far has been "things aren't that bad." That's not going to make for winning TV ads, is it folks?

In the meantime, Democrats (in particular John DeStefano) are articulating a mainstream, nuanced agenda to provide economic well-being to the majority of Connecticut families. DeStefano repeatedly asserts his top five priorities of job creation, property tax reform, health care cost control, support for early and higher ed, and comprehensive transporation investment.

Maybe Gov. Rell is nice. But Americans seem to prefer elected officials that are strong and have direction over those that appear as popularity-driven, accomodationist flip-floppers. We will have to see if Connecticut is an exception.

Anonymous said...

I think some of us are suffering from the "fallacy of the base". Die-hard Democrats and Republicans that I know see the world through very skewed glasses. My Democrat friends can't understand for the life of them why anyone would have voted for George Bush. My Republican friends can't understand how Chris Dodd wins with 70% of the vote.

It's because SWING VOTERS, those who actually decide elections, vote on pocketbook issues-- not the issues that get the base passionate (e.g., Carl Rove gets Democrats ire up, abortion and Supreme Court issues excite Republicans). The stuff you are writing about Rell here are not the issues swing voters care about.

You guys can say "people don't know Rell" or "let's link Rell with Rowland" all you want-- it's a losing strategy. Rell has cemented an image as an honest, moderate reformer.

Where she is vunerable is if a Democratic candidate could come up with a compelling vision for pocketbook and other everyday issues...high property taxes, clogged transportation, job stagnation. No Democrat has done this in 15 years.

I know this is just a blog, and is for political junkies (myself included). But if the Democrats actually follow the advise of "people don't know Rell, so let's paint her as a Rowland-corrupt-wannabe", they will lose the Governorship like they have for 15 years.

So again, I repeat my question-- what is the vision for a winning Democratic candidate? What should Rell's vision be to win? I think this is more politically interesting than the "fallacy of the base".

Julio Gonzalez said...

To (latest) anonymous,

I think you are correct that the mainstream economic middle is going to decide the election. That's why I think Democrats such as DeStefano are smart to rush and occupy the mainstream economic terrain. In my post above I outline his top five items. But it is IMPORTANT to note that his positions run the idea spectrum. Reducing the tax burden on manufacturing is not something one would associate with many of the Democrats in the legislature. Similarly his ideas on cutting health care costs, growing education investment, and transporation can't necessarily be pigeonholed as left or right.

They are simply smart, engaged, progressive economic management that will appeal to the majority.

Isn't it time that we had a governor that recognized growing the economy was dependent on on more than income tax rates?

That's the point of the linkage of Rell and Rowland. Not that she is ethically corrupt. But that her economic policies are essentially the same. They are based on inertia, not competitive strategy.

Genghis Conn said...

Anonymous brings up some good points about polarization within party bases. Democratic die-hards tend not to talk with Republicans very often, and vice versa. When they do meet, there is no communication between the two sides beyond parroting talking points and exchanging outrages. It may be difficult for Rell supporters to admit that there is little that is compelling about her economic policies, which are pretty piecemeal at best. It's also difficult for Democrats to admit that, while she can't take credit for creating or pushing the civil unions bill or the minimum wage hike, her acceptance of both shows a social tolerance that, when combined with her very real fiscal prudence, could be quite potent come next November.

The governor's race may very well be much closer than this early poll indicates. It's impossible to say. An awful lot could happen between now and then. Compelling new ideas would be a great start for a Democratic candidate, however.


You aren't this Julio Gonzales, are you?

Julio Gonzalez said...

Of course that's me. But as most of the readers familiar with New Haven politics know, I am no longer at the Mayor's office. That page is out of date.

Anonymous said...

For the record, Julio should probably let everyone know that he ran John DeStefano's campaign in 2001.

This was the year that Martin Looney ran against DeStefano in such a big money race, ($30 plus per voter) that it led to DeStefano's ultimate support for Campaign Finance Reform, and the Public Funding of Campaigns.

Julio Gonzalez said...

Indeed, the 2001 race is a perfect example of why a public financing system is in the best interest of the public AND elected officials. It's too bad that Rell has not made the local public-financing option bill a priority. Many of us in New Haven (including the Mayor) have worked for 3 years to get that bill done and have gotten no support from the top.

For those that might not know, I was also an elected New Haven alderman for two terms (1998-2001) in addition to serving as DeStefano's campaign manager in 2001 and his chief of staff during 2001-2003. Oh, and I was a Bysiewicz SOTS state convention delegate a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

This thread is typical of modern politics. Amid all of the talk of how Gov. Rell is "weak" and "incompetent," I see very little here which indicates what any of the Democrats A) would have done differently than her and B) what their vision is for our state (I'm not talking about rhetoric, I am talking about real, honest, hard-hitting ideas).