Friday, September 09, 2005

Governor's Race a Hot Potato

I remember a skit from Saturday Night Live in 1991, which was a send-up of a debate between Democratic contenders for president. It was called "The Race to be the Guy who Loses to Bush," and each candidate explained why he would be a terrible nominee and why the guy next to him should be the choice, instead. It was funny at the time, because no one thought President George H. W. Bush, fresh off a victory in Kuwait, could lose.

And then, of course, he did. But the fear of a race that seemed like a guaranteed loser kept a lot of big-name Democrats out of the race, enabling a guy who had only been known on the national scene for giving a long and deadly dull speech at the 1988 convention to win the nomination and then the presidency. The lesson here is that conventional wisdom has its moments, but it can become meaningless very quickly when the situation changes. Those Democrats who saw 1992 as another loser of a race and stayed away may have missed out on their party's only chance at presidential victory between 1976 and 2008.

Is the 2006 governor's race a loser for Democrats? Susan Bysiewicz thought so. IN her statement, she said: "It has been a difficult decision, but the timing is simply not right for me." (AP)

Translation: I'm going to lose. I'd better get out before I do.

Richard Blumenthal probably thinks so, too, although it's hard to tell what's on his mind. He is very much like Mario Cuomo in 1992 and 1988: everybody pinned their hopes on him, but he wavered and vacillated until finally taking a pass. Blumenthal is staying true to form, at least so far. Couple an uncertain race with the fact that Jodi Rell has been stealing a lot of his spotlight, lately (she has visibly attached herself to both of the state's high-profile lawsuits, the NCLB case and the Bradley Air Guard case), and his chances of getting in the race seem much diminished. He may yet surprise us, but history suggests that he won't.

Is Jodi Rell, then, a foregone conclusion next year? No. Here are some bits of conventional wisdom that could be overturned by reality during 2006:

1. Jodi Rell is running

Are we sure of that? She hasn't announced, and Rell can be very unpredictable. Her health, which appears to be fine at the moment, could become a deciding factor for her. This one, however, seems pretty safe.

2. Democrats will tear each other apart in the primary

If Blumenthal stays out, and Malloy falls far enough behind in fundraising to realize that he doesn't really have a chance, there won't be a primary and John DeStefano will be the nominee.

Of course, if Blumenthal gets in, the others might decide to get out. In any case, Bysiewicz's departure makes the threat of a primary much less likely.

3. Rell's approval ratings will remain strong

They've been consistent so far. Most people have had a chance to form an opinion of her by now, and they like what they see. But public opinion is fickle. A few missteps on Rell's part, an economic downturn, national trends towards Democrats or a very good challenger could help her leave the governor's chair early.

No statewide race in Connecticut is hopeless for Democrats, not when there are so many more of them than Republicans (and Republicans are so weak, as a party). The trick is getting Democrats to actually vote for a Democrat, and to get independents to do the same. It's not easy, but it's doable.

The dynamics of this race are going to shift and change a lot before the conventions next year. Bysiewicz may find herself wishing she had stayed in just a little longer.


Ebpie said...

I still can't believe Bysiewicz dropped out this early. She's got statewide name recognition, a sizeable war chest and even with weak fundraising would still be a major player for quite some time. She must truly be terrified of losing.

Good analysis of the 2006 race, Genghis. Jodi Rell has to run next year. I don't think she would have waited this long only to say "no" and thus destroy the GOP's chances in 2006 of keeping the governor's mansion.

If Malloy doesn't capitalize on Bysiewicz's absence, DeStefano could have the nomination by December. Such a disappointment, I was looking forward to a three way primary.

BDRubenstein888 said...

With the bowing out of Sb because " the timing wasn't right for me" is an indication of a false answe...she has been running for years and a more appropriate answer would have helped her..

Here is my view of things;

1. The Governor's race....Rell still enjoys a high approval rate and all sign point to her joining this race by October 15th or so...the public will have a mindset of her as a moderate reformer who is likeable...she will make a concerted effort to the good gov't types...undecideds...and the Weicker crowd to replace the lobbyists and insiders whenever possible...she will do more direct mail and already is talking about setting up a campaign structure...

2-Destefano...labor and the liberals are leaning heavy and makeup about 1/3 to 40% of all primary voters....he continues to lead in the money...his "message" is the most substantive...his challenge is too break into the suburban soccor moms and dads and capture their vote....thats where the race will be won...secondly...he needs to start his media work right after the new year and not wait until he is the nominee...if he waits Rell would have had 2 years of "good guy" free publicity...and at the same time he must continue to fight off Malloy who is running as a " business" candidate

Genghis Conn said...

Here's the text of an announcement Bysiewicz just sent out to her supporters via email...

Dear Friends,

It is with conflicting emotions that I announce today that I will no longer pursue the governorship of Connecticut.

While news of my decision was prematurely reported yesterday, I held off on making an official announcement because I wanted to make an effort to personally contact as many of my supporters and contributors as possible. This, I believe, was the only responsible and respectful way to make the announcement, and I appreciate your understanding.

Before I make a public announcement to the media today, I wanted you to know how grateful I am for all the help and support that you gave me. I have been honored to receive so much encouragement and so many endorsements from people across our great state. I will always remember and be thankful for those of you who believed in me and believed in our campaign for Governor.

At this time, I have made the personal decision not to run for Governor. It has been a difficult decision, but the timing is simply not right for me. I care passionately about our state and the issues facing our families. I will continue to advocate for the things I care strongly about – restoring integrity, ethics and public trust to our government, expanding health insurance for all Connecticut families, promoting affordable prescription coverage for seniors, fully funding our public schools so that all children have an equal opportunity to succeed, promoting job creation, and investing in our infrastructure. At some point in the future, I may have the opportunity to work on these issues from the Governor's office. The time is not now.

Today, I announce that it is my intention to run for re-election to the office of Secretary of the State.

I have sincerely enjoyed my job as the Secretary of the State and believe that we have made much progress in the areas of helping small businesses create jobs, increasing citizen participation, and protecting consumer rights and individual privacy. I am proud of my accomplishments and know there is much more to pursue from this platform.

I look forward to continuing my public service to the State of Connecticut. Thank you again for your friendship.

Very truly yours,
Susan Bysiewicz

Paid for by Friends of Susan 2006, Timothy L. Brennan, Treasurer

Anonymous said...

Trivia Questions: Who was the last sitting mayor to become Governor in CT?

Genghis Conn said...

A good question! There hasn't been one in a VERY long time.

Might have been Morgan Bulkeley, who was mayor of Hartford before becoming governor in 1888. I'll see if I can dig up a later one.

Genghis Conn said...

Yep, according to my research at The Political Graveyard and Wikipedia, it was Bulkeley. It's been over a century since a sitting mayor has become governor. Most were lieutenant governor (a separately elected position until 1950), jurists or members of the legislature before becoming governor.

Of course, this just proves that state parties like to nominate these sorts of people. Mayors don't often run in the first place.

Let me know if you were thinking of a later one, anonymous. I may have missed somebody. The fact that our governors served two year terms before 1950 and one year terms before 1818 means that there are an AWFUL LOT of them.

Anonymous said...

Well Done!!

Genghis Conn said...

This seems like one of those apparently daunting facts that may or may not actually mean anything. An argument could be made that city mayors have a hard time appealing to the rest of Connecticut, or that their parties tend to favor those who have already "paid their dues" in state government. Very hard to say.

Aldon Hynes said...

Trivia Questions:

Who was the last sitting Governor, who became Governor when the previous Governor resigned due to ethics problems was re-elected Governor in CT?

Who was the last person from a small town in Connecticut was elected Governor?

And perhaps my favorite: Who wants to talk about how we can make Connecticut better instead of wasting time on questions like this?

Julio Gonzalez said...

Two other things to remember about the 92 race: the Democrats discovered a surprisingly effective communicator, and there was a crucial mismatch in campaign organization.

I think Mayor DeStefano and the campaign he was waged so far might feature similar opportunities for Democrats. If you've seen DeStefano talk, when he is at his best, he can really inspire. I've also witnessed him become incredibly disciplined in how he frames issues in discussions to illuminate the merits of the progressive case.

Second, one of the dilemmas of Rell's slow start is that her team will have less time engaging the media and field. If those of us that support the Mayor can continue to creatively and aggressively make the case against the Rowland-Rell economic policies, I think that the late-starting Republican team might have a tough time recasting the conventional wisdom once they finally announce.

One last addition to the string of trivia: who was the last sitting governor to lose one-sixth of the manufacturing job base and get re-elected?

FrankS said...

FYI, Bill O'Neill, was from a small town and lost far more than 1/6 of the state's manufacturing job base and was easily re-elected in 1982 & 1986.

Rell will have the advantage of all the Rowland/Rell appointees in State offices to support her, she won't have any start-up delay.

Chris Mc said...

Bruce is right, everyone who is acquainted with statewide politics knows that Susan has been running for a _very_ long time. Much longer than the three years ago that she started raising money for this campaign. But what else is she gonna say? "You won't have Nixon to kick around any more"? It is a boilerplate moment, and that is what she put out.

Edpie's post isn't borne out by the polls or anecdotal evidence - Susan's name recognition is about what the Mayors' and Constitutional Officers other than Rell and Blumenthal are - ballpark 20%. This is still inside baseball.

SB's strategy was to try and close out the competition other than Blumenthal and build enough momentum to keep Dick out. She missed both those objectives, and overwhelmingly so. She's made the obviously correct decision, and we now have our choice.

SB was the presumed favorite early on, largely because she has long enjoyed the support of the unions and the liberals (as Bruce describes them) that dominate the party apparatus and maybe 35% of the statewide Dem primary electorate (and maybe 20% in the general). But it has always been, in my view, between Malloy and DeStefano.

They both want it badly enough to fight for it and take on a strong incumbent. They both have secure positions from which to run. They both enjoy the support and respect of key constituencies within the party.

The only factor outside of this matchup now is the remaining reluctance of some in the Democratic Party to commit to anyone other than Blumenthal until Blumenthal declares that he's out.

If the politically motivated and completely contrived allegations hadn't forced him to sideline his campaign, I've no doubt that Malloy would be the prohibitive favorite at this stage, pending a formal Blumenthal withdrawal.

DeStefano is now in Bysiewicz's role, doing his damndest to close Malloy out. People thinking about being on the right horse in the primary might be leaning DeStefano now. But it is difficult to see how repeating the usual Democratic Party strategy of how-to-sew-up-the-primary (which is what Bruce is describing) will produce a different outcome than the usual. This strategy is CT Dem politics 101. Problem is, it doesn't get us to the Governor's mansion.

The question is, who can win in the General?

Julio's post is, respectfully, the usual wishful thinking and rosy-scenario weaving that people who have recently taken to calling themselves "progressive" engage in every four years. "If only we had a good enough candidate and enough money, people will come around to our view of the world". The Curry '02 experience should have cured us all of our miraculous political conversion fantasies. In the absence of a federal indictment, it was no contest.

Among the many reasons that I support Malloy is the fact that he matches up best with Rell. Malloy can win in Rell's base, no doubt about that. This is the _only_ way we win the Governor's mansion.

DeStefano v Rell = Curry v Rowland
We need a different approach if our objective is to win next November.

Anonymous said...

DeStefano will kill Malloy on the issues, no doubt about it. Malloy is very shallow here. And no, I don't think DeStefano's strategy is to sew up the primary - his strategy seems to be to win on his ideas, and that's whats this is all about.

Anonymous said...

Some VERY astute analyses here...Bdrubenstein888 and Chris MC have it right, IMHO:

1) DeStefano will beat Malloy-- not because of the money (because Malloy can raise it)-- but because of message. DeStefano is the only candidate on either side of the aisle with a unique vision (regionalization). He has to add meat to it, but it is more than the other candidates can say.

2) Odds are on Rell, even if her polling slips (which it inevitably will). She has positioned herself extremely well...moderate reformer, helped save the sub base, pro-business and pro-growth. She needs a vision right now-- this is where she is vunerable.

3) New Englanders like moderate Republican governors to balance their Democratic legislatures.

I don't know if it will be as bad as Rowland-Curry (who was an awful candidate), but if I were a betting man, I would take 3:1 odds on Rell over DeStefano.

Anonymous said...

You can spin it all you want, but it's just hard to see ANY way that Malloy beats Destefano in a primary... Dan should save the party $5 million in primary bills and duck out by January.

Julio Gonzalez said...

To Chris Mc,

I am curious by your statement "those that lately call themselves progressives."

First, I don't know if that is a subtle jab at me, the candidate I support, or the people that comment here that are also DeStefano supporters. Whichever it is, I think that it is a tad silly to get too obsessed with these labels. Moreover, the policies that the Mayor and his supporters have fought for over the course of his time in New Haven and in this race are clearly on the progressive side of the ledger.

Second, and more importantly, I don't think we should start high-school-style taunting and sniping amongst Democrats. People in Connecticut have less economic security. And we are missing opportunities to have our state government correct the horrible education, energy, and fiscal choices made by the federal government. Let's make our case for our candidate by focusing on Republican policy failures.

I personally think Mayor DeStefano can make a compelling case in every part of the state for a government that protects our economic security and quality of life in. I think he has the experience building broad multi-racial, multi-class coalitions that will be neccessary to win this election. He is disciplined in delivering the economic critique of Rell through a progressive frame. And he clearly has defied both fundraising expectations and kept organizational momentum.

If people want to join this growing, optimistic effort, they should. But let's not do the Republicans job for them.

Chris Mc said...

Really? What issues will he "kill" on?

Malloy's record in Stamford is first rate, not just by Connecticut standards, but by national standards.

Are you even acquainted with Malloy's record? A post like that one, "Anonymous", suggests not.

As to the post by "Anonymous" II (c'mon folks, you're just being lazy there - make something up so the thread isn't so much work to follow) - and thanks for the kind words, BTW - again, I don't think you've acquainted yourself with the substance of Malloy's record and candidacy yet.

Fact is, the concept of regionalization is something well understood by wonks and bureaucrats and is by no means new to the discussion.

Weicker tried to do it in response (if memory serves) to the Sheff v O'Neill decision. It is a long-standing debate over how to pay for public education, primarily, which is being extended into transportation and other sprawl related issues as the long-observed Connecticut principal of "home rule" becomes less and less tenable.

And regionalization in the larger context is something that there are regular conventions about - there was one this summer at CCSU I think.

Malloy has, in fact, a great track record in transforming Stamford into a center for world-class companies, which have moved there and stayed there.

Everything - from public works to the kind of sophisticated understanding of what it takes to compete in the global economy - that builds trust amongst employers and leads to the kind of high paying jobs and high-skill industries that Connecticut needs in a globalizing economy.

Malloy's accomplishments can be measured on every axis that matters for the State's future.

Regionalization is one way of understanding the problem. Malloy has demonstrated his firm grasp and clear vision for ten years as Stamford's Mayor.

He's a proven producer.

Anonymous said...

Sorry my little trivia question brought forth such angst. Just thought it was interesting with SB dropping out, two mayors were left in.

On a separate note, I'm not so sure "regionalization" is going to sell outside of the cities. My experience has been that suburbanites (the vast majority of voters) like the idea of voluntary cooperation among towns, but will resist any attempt to, as they view it, force them to join together, or heaven forbid, join a city. They view the city as the thing they moved away from, and this includes middle class minorities that have bought in the first ring suburbs. Most view "regionalization" as a means of sending their dollars to the cities, and an idea that would leave them in less control of their communities. I think regionalization appeals to property tax reform folks, since the two basically go hand in hand.

And I promise, no more trivia questions.

Julio Gonzalez said...

To FrankS,

Your assertion about O'Neill appears to be incorrect. Manufacturing employment had only decreased around 5% at the time of his re-election.

So, Connecticut's manufacturing decline in the last few years is just part of the economic hole the Rell team will have to dig out of once they finally get around to engaging the debate.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Chris, wrong again. I am well acquainted with both candidates, and have heard them both speak. DeStefano was much more substantive and much more impressive.

FrankS said...


Your citing a study with a base year of 1982, O'Neill assumed office Jan, 1981, measured against 1980 numbers you may find it's a different result.

DeanFan84 said...

Malloy comes across as a phony.... As yet another Country Club Democrat who will quickly side with big money interests over the people, each and every day.

I'm sorry, but if we are going to win anything in CT next year, we need a candidate that rank-and-file can actually believe in. That person is John DeStefano, despite his faults.

P.S. I am so tired of the left/right analysis of the fight against the DLC. Republican-Lite politics has lost us everything in DC. It hasn't won us shit.

What we need are some people who actually stand for things. Not everyone will agree, of course. But more important to come across as having some core convictions, than to appear unprincipled. imho.

Chris Mc said...

Julio quoth-

"I think that it is a tad silly to get too obsessed with these labels."

Your label, Julio, as each of your posts shows.

To clarify, my reference (not a jab) is to the fact that the people that were known until recently as "liberals," until the term became an epithet, now use the label "progressives".

"...high-school-style taunting and sniping amongst Democrats."?

For the record, I don't accept your characterization of my post. I am disagreeing with your point of view, strategy and arguments.

"Let's make our case for our candidate by focusing on Republican policy failures."

I disagree.

Let's pick a leader with a track record and the ability to win in the general election, instead of wasting another opportunity trying to peddle a point of view that the majority of people in the state have repeatedly and decisively rejected for the last fifteen or twenty years.

If people in this state held the opinion that their situation was bad AND that Rell was responsible for it, she wouldn't be at 80% in the polls. So your purported strategy just makes no sense.

"I personally think Mayor DeStefano can make a compelling case in every part of the state for a government that protects our economic security"

What does this even mean?

And "Deanfan84", the choice is this: get up to speed and start winning races, or continue to be political and economic road kill. If you were any kind of Dean fan, you wouldn't need this explained. He gets it. You obviously don't.

BTW, "Republican Lite"? didn't you just say you are "so tired" of that?

As I've said elsewhere, you guys need to do a bit of homework and get your facts straight. So far, you excel only at namecalling and personal attacks.


Julio Gonzalez said...

To Chris Mc

By “every part of the state” I mean precisely that: Fairfield. The business community. Suburban independents. Yes, even those enclaves that some think as out of reach for us.

I actually think all of these groups care greatly about a more reasonable tax structure, reducing penalties on manufacturing property, college affordability, universal early childhood education, reducing medical inflation, and investments in transportation. These are DeStefano’s policy priorities. Are these out of tune with what Connecticut voters actually want?

The “progressive” case DeStefano makes is simply that government CAN help make things better if properly directed. The Mayor does not shy away from his belief that thoughtful government can help create a better and more just world. And I think many of us find that refreshing given the national Democrats’ tone.

You have probably made up your mind 100% as I have for my candidate. But to the other readers, I certainly hope that if you think these policy priorities or our strategy could be improved, you will let the DeStefano campaign know in the coming days. They are critical for the direction of the overall election and I think your feedback would be listened to. We certainly do more than our share of punditry, but in our heart we are organizers.

And to FrankS:

Going back a year makes no real difference. I have to go back to 1972 to see any change larger than 16%. I’ll be posting on this (with a graphic) in the future at the DeStefano blog. See Chris Mc, we indeed do our homework! That was not a shot - but a humorous admission that facts are key and we need to take the burden of proof seriously.

MikeCT said...

Andy Fleischmann has posted an announcement about his withdrawal from the Secretary of State race. He will continue to service as a state representative and will run for that office in 2006. Andy represented a great opportunity for revitalizing the office of Secretary of State - sorry to see him go.

Quinn said...

I cannot believe that any of you can in good conscience blame Rell or Rowland for any loss of manufacturing jobs. Connecticut's cost of living, along with other simple economic forces, makes a manufacturing industry impractible. If any political team is to blame for the decline in Connecticut's economy it is the Democratic caucus. Sure, suburban moderates want a more reasonable tax code. Like a tax code that doesn't raise corporate tax rates even as corporations are fleeing the state!

Genghis Conn said...

Don't worry about the trivia question, anonymous. I actually enjoy finding out that sort of thing, although it may turn out to have no bearing whatsoever on the current situation.

If the Malloy/DeStefano race is really shaping up to be an ideological fight between the left and right wings of the Democratic Party in Connecticut, it could seriously hurt their chances of winning next November.

From what I've seen, however, there are few places where Malloy and DeStefano actually disagree. This may change now that they can focus exclusively on one another.

I have my doubts that it will go this far, however. The m.o. of the Democratic Party since 1994's primary surprise has been to put pressure on candidates who are lagging behind to throw in the towel for the sake of unity. If DeStefano seems to be significantly ahead, pressure will be put to bear on Malloy to step aside. He might get the Lt. Gov. nod in exchange. Who can say?

As for Flesichmann, holding on to his pretty safe seat in the House isn't a bad position to be in. Mantilla has this to fall back on, too. Nussbaum, I think, is just sick enough of Democratic unity to stay in, at least for now. Blondin is thinking it over, but she'll probably bow out, too. There won't be any money for her if she stays in, and she's already heavily in debt.

Anonymous said...

I think we're a little too obsessed with "party unity", since it hasn't worked for anyone. Bill O'Neil was the last of the "party" candidates, back when a party could effectively control who its nominee might be. All of the interest groups, labor, corporate, environmental, etc., are pretty much free agents these days. I think a knock down, all out primary won't particularly effect the outcome in any case. If someone's favorite son (since they're both sons) gets knocked out, or convinced to drop, or makes it to, and loses, a primary, the same issues of disaffection will be there. The key, I think, is to build enough bridges to the groups that are supporting your competitor (who is NOT your enemy), so when the dust finally settles, you have a reasonable chance to reach out to everyone.

OK, more trivia will seep in.

Dave said...

The elephant in the Democratic closet is Blumenthal. The longer this prima donna waits the worse off the Dems will be- Do or don't do' Dick. I do not think he will- there are some clues for us obsessed political types- SB would love to be the AG, but has said she will be beginning to raise money for secretary of state office. She talks to Dick regularly- has there been any off the record conversations? As far as Blumies name recognition and whether he can beat Rell, he has never had to run a real campaign, and I do not think he can- He has never had to say what he is "for", only what he is against or who he is sueing, and I defy anyone to tell me where he stands on any issue except publicity- In person he is stiff and mannequin like. In my opinion, blind ambition and a penchant for the public spotlight is not enough to build a campaign that will ELECT him as governor. Think Barbara Kenelley without the substance.

Also, rumor has it that even if Rell is elected, she will not fufill her term, so who are the Reps pushing for Lieutenant Governor. I hear Sen Tony Gugliemo

Genghis Conn said...


That's a rumor I haven't heard. Why wouldn't she serve her entire term? Health issues?

As for Lt. Gov., I've also heard McKinney's name. Sen. John Kissel of Enfield would also be a good choice.

Anonymous said...

I for one really hope that there is a primary for Guv, a primary allows our candidates to be tested and in the limelight. Sure, it is a giant expense-- but it is not like Democrats have had much success in winning the seat.

FrankS said...


Here's another report that notes the job losses, using a 1975 base, from your source.