Monday, November 21, 2005

AP: 5th District a "Bellweather"

As Nancy Johnson goes, so goes the Republican Party? According to a recent Associated Press article, that may be just the case:

The re-election campaign for veteran U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson of Connecticut is one of several emerging as an early barometer for Republican fortunes in next year's elections.
"If you're looking for a canary-in-a-coal-mine race, this is one," said Amy Walter, who tracks House races for [the Cook Political Report]. "If all of a sudden you see Nancy Johnson slip, it's a sign other Republicans in similar districts should be concerned." (AP)

Johnson has been strong in her district since nearly losing to Charlotte Koskoff in 1996, and stronger still now that her district includes more of Fairfield County than before. She has easily won her last four elections, including a 2002 race against fellow U.S. Representative Jim Maloney following redistricting. Here's the map of her last two elections:

The article postulates that the ongoing national crisis for the Republican Party could nullify Johnson's advantage as an incumbent, which is considerable. In fact, national trends are one way in which I suggest that the Incumbent Rule--which states that all things being equal, incumbents will win-- can be broken.

It seems like it would take one heck of a national trend to knock off Johnson. She's well-known, she has a very useful public persona as a nice, moderate little old lady, and she has an absolute ton of money in the bank. Her district, which includes part of Fairfield County and most of Litchfield County, is also heavily Republican.

But the article is absolutely correct. If Nancy Johnson finds herself in trouble in 2006, Republicans ought to panic. They already seem a little worried. Here's a telling statement:

National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Carl Forti predicted a solid Johnson win next fall. "People up there have known Nancy Johnson for years," said Forti. "They know she votes her conscience, she doesn't vote the party line." (AP)

When the NRCC is touting the fact that Nancy Johnson disagrees with the party, they're worried.

Should they be? Paul Vance and Chris Murphy are both good challengers, and either will be able to make a run at Johnson. Still, it's going to take a well-funded, beautifully executed campaign combined with a national backlash against Republicans to defeat her, and there's no guarantee of either of those things coming to pass.

If it does happen, though, the shift in national politics will be seismic.

"Connecticut's Fifth District seen as a bellwether for GOP." Associated Press 21 November, 2005.


stomv said...

It seems like CT Dems would be better suited to go after 2 and 4. Sure, a sweep would be awesome, but they need to focus on picking 'em up one at a time. 5 seems to be the most solid GOP, so for now if the Dems can pick up 2 or 4, they'll have done their job of gaining a Dem seat in this cycle, and can focus on maintaining incumbancy through 2010, and then redraw the district to make 5 more competitive.

Gerrymandering? Nah. Anti-gerrymandering. The districts aren't exactly compact as it is.

the real old navy said...

interestingly enough, the national trends seem to have affected local legislative races more than the Congressional seats. Simmons first won his seat in 2000 with Joe Lieberman running as VP (and drawing many D's to the polls), while the same year the D's made big gains in the legislature. In 2004, the anti-Bush backlash led to state legislative Republican losses in Rosa's district (Metz, Aniskovich, Smith), but Johnson and Simmons won fairly big. It will be very interesting to see if in an off-year the Congressional R's succumb to counter-intution and go down in flames. My prediction is that win or lose, Simmons has the closest race. Chris Murphy barely beat another old lady back in 2000 (Ann Dandrow) and he's not likely to impress the old guard in Nancy's NW stronghold (nor the people of Waterbury who actually view the oversight board as a good thing). Simmons has the sub base going for him, but that doesn't mean anything up north where he still has to contend with the very democratic Enfield and those many small towns that lean D. Can't imagine Rell's candidacy resonates in Brooklyn, Coventry, etc, either. If Courtney runs aggressively and on the correct issues, he could/should pull off an upset. Shays won't lose because he never does.

Anonymous said...

The GOP knocked off a Dem Mayor in Torrington, a Dem you guys all hate for being conservative won big as as a write-in candidate in Waterbury, and GOP mayors won big in Danbury and New Britain.

The bird ain;t singing up here. What they are thinking they hear in DC, who knows?

redtoblue06 said...

It sounds like there is a lot of negative feeling towards the Dems pulling off an upset in the 5th. Yes, Nancy is an incumbent and has been there for years, but just look at the municipal results this past go-round.

Chris Murphy has the money and the public health background to really bring a challenge, it seems to me. Medicare Part D is Nancy's baby, and it has created a LOT of bad feeling around the country. If the Dems can focus on that and get people in the 5th thinking about what Nancy has done to health care, then Murphy should be able to take her out.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the Democrats did poorly in the 5th District

Anonymous said...

While it may seem like a marginal seat given the Dem Performance numbers, Johnson's overwhelming financial advantage and relative good standing will make her extremely difficult to beat.

I agree with Stomv - try to nail Simmons and Shays and then redraw the map and get NJ or if she retires in 2012.

Of course, I would be interested in seeing how a redistricting conversation would go on the blog. The CT Dems had a big fight in 2001 as the two safe Dems (Larson and Rosa) both turned down the opportunity to take out Simmons. This was immediately after Maloney defeated Nielsen in the most expensive house race up until Maloney Johnson two years later.

Well, its four years after redistricting, Nancy has a relatively safe seat given that the redraw put 30 of her old towns in the new 5th while Simmons and Shays still hold on.

Who would have thought that the Republicans would have more seats in Congress in a New England state than Democrats - viola - only done by the magic of redistricting.

Its time to change the system and go to non-partisan redraw and then maybe, we can win back the 2nd and 5th.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see NJ gone here in the 5th, but, quite frankly don't see it happening. W'bury is the D stronghold in the 5th, but W'bury Dems are relatively conservative by nature.

Vance is popular here which could help, and Murphy's health care advocacy could trump NJ's Medicare drug problems particularly if, in 6 months, seniors are still confused. And, if we see Tom Delay get sucked into the Abramoff scandal, NJ can possibly be tarred as a Delay crony. But that's a lot of "if's".

I agree that it's unconscionable that CT has 3 out of 5 reps R's. I will work to help oust NJ, but we need a lot of luck.

ET, W'bury

Brass Tacks said...

Murphy?: Second place.

There's just no "THERE" there.

Rarely has a politician been more puffed up by his own press machine than this guy. Let's face it, folks, he's John Edwards without the drawl and Southern charm.

It IS true that if Nancy gets into trouble here, then it's curtains for the GOP in other places, because the damage will have been done by the White House, not the likes of the apparent Dem frontrunner.

MikeCT said...

Let's see... Presidential and Congressional approval ratings in the tank. Johnson acts as a DC corporate lobbyist, with 80% of her money coming from out of state, mostly from Washington-based PACs. National and local Democratic organizers pumped up.

If Dems feel they have to wait until Johnson retires to aggressively pursue the 5th district, then they don't deserve the office - now or in the future. (More background on the 5th CD fundraising and Chris Murphy.)

Aldon Hynes said...

I do believe that the 5th CD is going to be the most difficult of the three Republican Congressional seats in Connecticut to win. However, I don’t think it is impossible, and I would turn some of the arguments of anonymous posters back on them.

For example, Torrington; my understanding of what happened in Torrington is that people viewed Mayor Quinn as an incumbent that had lost touch with his constituents and ran a poor campaign. A lot of people maintain that Rep. Johnson has also lost touch with her constituents. While she has a lot of money from the large pharmaceutical companies, she is also going to have to run a strong campaign, and her association with the failed Medicare Part D is likely to hurt her.

In Danbury a very well financed incumbent did beat back a challenger, but the results were not as shining for Republicans as they might like you to think. The Democrats picked up seats on the city council and Lori Kabeck upset incumbent Joseph L. Scozzafava for town clerk. There were many other small upsets like that around the 5th CD.

Guy that never posts said...

Speaking of losing touch with the voters, The Hartford Courant was pretty rough on Stamford's Mayor over the weekend. Sounds like CT's "Paper of Record" thinks the Malloy campaign is taking on water.

Campaign Boat Barely Afloat,0,2015768.column

Anonymous said...

Aldon could do the PR for GM they way he spins the Dem party's weakness in NW CT.

"Yes ,we are closing lots of plants, but the ones that are open are doing really, really well"

Anonymous said...

Smart move Aldon...dissing the 5th CD by saying it will be the toughest race..and also dissing mayor Quinn when your candidate wants support in the 5th CD...please show him your comment and this and ask him to respond...

Anonymous said...

It's funny - I think you would have heard a lot of this same chatter about the 4th CD this time two years ago. What changed? A very good candidate emerged - Diane Farrell, and the district finally woke up that their congressman wasn't "independent". The same formula is here in the 5th. Remember, Murphy is the guy who ran Koskoff's race in 96, he beat a "safe" Republican incumbent for his House seat, and he turned a previously Republican Senate seat into a Democratic seat in 2002. If you ask me, the 5th CD in 2006 will be what the 4th was in 2004.

Anonymous said...

It's funny - you would have heard the same chatter we're seeing here about the 4th district this time two years ago. What changed in the 4th? A great candidate emerged - Diane Farrell, and the district finally woke up to the fact that their congressman wasn't an "independent". Those same elements are here in the 5th. Remember, Murphy was the guy who ran Koskoff's race in 96, he beat a previously "safe" Republican incumbent for his House seat, and he turned a Republican Senate seat into a D seat in 2002. I think the 5th CD in 2006 will be what the 4th was in 2004.

DeanFan84 said...

Maybe Mayor Quinn's problem was that the base saw him as something other than a real Democrat?

Can someone provide us with turnout figures for Torrington? My bet is that a number of Dem stalwarts voted for the youngster, as a means of instituting change within Torrington Dem leadership.

Dems will do just fine in NW CT, whether it be Murphy or Vance. The fact is that Nancy Johnson is a tool of the Republican establishment, and no one has faith in her independence. Johnson is far from unassailable. She reminds me of one of the petty Generals in Iraq, trying to deny the reality of Abu Ghraib.

Anonymous said...

People who read a lot into Murphy's campaign because he was able to defeat Angelo Fusco and Ann Dandrow haven;t thought much about the political abilities of the people he defeated.

Aldon Hynes said...

One of the things that I like about working for Mayor DeStefano is that he encourages his staff to give him constructive criticism about how he is doing. It is a stark contrast to so much of the Republican agenda where criticism is discouraged. Likewise, even though some DeStefano supporters may get a little upset when I say good things about Mayor Malloy, I believe we should say both the good and the bad about all Democrats, whether or not they are opponents in a campaign.

I mean no disrespect to Mayor Quinn. However, the buzz that I’ve been hearing is that he ran a poor campaign and appeared out of touch with his constituents. If I were to tell him, “Quinnie, you’re doing a great job,” I believe I would be doing him and all Democrats a disservice. He needs to hear what people are saying and thinking. He really needed to hear it a few weeks ago, and not just on election day.

As to my ‘spinning’, I still maintain that Democrats picked up seats in Danbury and many other municipalities in the 5th is a sign of strength. It seems more like spin to suggest that Democrats picking up seats is a sign of weakness.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Aldon, we (closed Oldsmobile/lost Torrington) but we (sold a few more Saturns/ won a couple of council seats in Danbury)

Brass Tacks said...

guy who never posts: Don't ever confuse Kevin Rennie's twisted view of the world and unsleeping malevolence with the view of the Courant... This is Kevin's little way of getting back at anyone who has ever slighted Him. He's Pat Seremet with a tie.

Aldon Hynes said...

Gee Anonymous, I guess you're right. The Democratic party must be on the verge of going out of business.


Anonymous said...

well, if DeStefano succeeds in giving state employees the same deals GM was giving the UAW, the state will be the one out of business

Anonymous said...

aldon, i'm a dem and would love to be on your side on this one but the facts remain that the r's won in what should be democratic cities of danbury, new britain and torrington while also beating dem incumbents in bethel and new fairfield. further, the dem endorsed candidate lost in waterbury. surely, a town clerks race does not trump these mentioned results. i appreciate your zest for our great democratic party but you tend to lose credibility when you ignore facts and insist on spin.

Aldon Hynes said...


I worked hard for Dean Esposito. He's a great guy and I think it would have been great if he won Danbury. However, did you forget what other bloggers or the Hartford Courant had to say about the race?

"Registered Democrats still outnumber Republicans, but both are dwarfed by unaffiliated voters. In fundraising, Boughton had raised $74,064 by Sept. 30, outpacing Esposito by a 10-1 ratio."

Granted, Esposito did catch up some in the final month, but as much as I believe in Democratic politics, I rarely expect a challenger who is considerably outspent by the incumbent to defeat the incumbent.

Based on that, I think looking at how the Democrats did on the rest of the ticket is more significant.

Likewise, I would suggest you look at some of the other races, for example Harwinton and a few other towns in the northwest, where Democrats did manage to upset a Republican incumbents.

Granted, Bethel was a disappointment and I don't know the details in New Fairfield.

As to Quinn, I only have second hand information, but I was told that he did not campaign with the sort of gusto that Bingham did. The New York Times reports, "What they [Bingham's campaign] were doing was campaigning hard and knocking on doors. Mr. Bingham said he knocked on at least 6,000 doors to get his message across."

You should not over look the effect of a lot of money (in Boughton's case), and a lot of hard work ( in Bingham's case).

Based on all of this, I would suggest that you are actually the one who is ignoring a lot of the facts.

As to credibility, at least I am willing to put my name on the line.

Anonymous said...

aldon, again. i appreciate your zest for our great party and the hard work you do on behalf of it so please dont be so defensive. i too, have put blood, sweat and tears into making this a more Democratic world. i know the 5th very well and simply don't agree that you can look at a town clerks race to gauge overall success when there are other glaring major examples that you fail to mention. also, putting a name to an argument doesnt make it credible, that actual facts of the argument decide credibility.

Aldon Hynes said...

Anonymous one,

Apparently you didn't read my response if you think I am simply looking "at a town clerks race to gauge overall success".

Putting ones name to an argument doesn't lend credibility, but not believing in what you say enough to add your name to it, does damage credibility.

All we know is that there is some person who claims to have worked hard for Democrats in the 5th who is attacking my credibility because they have a different view of the political situation in the 5th CD.

I hope people are getting tired of nameless attacks.

Anonymous said...

aldon, i am very sorry you are so sensitive about this. far from a nameless attack, i in fact prefaced my comments in complimenting you on both occassions and linked us by our common great cause. i simply added my opinion that i disagreed with your take on the 5th because of what i saw as huge omissions. isnt that what this blog is about, opinions. people can certainly choose to agree with me or agree with your take on the 5th. i tend to think the 5th is neither as bleak for the dems as some have painted it here nor as rosy as you have painted it. i just dont think your few examples show the whole picture out here. i am currently an undecided dem and have been pushed to endorse DeStefano but i have to say that your style leaves a little to be desired aldon and is leading me to hold off. i hope in the future you can agree on the common ground when offered even if an anonymous person disagrees with you.

Anonymous said...


Please, isn't it time you require at least a registered screenname for people to post?

The anonymous crap is only going to get worse as we move into 2006.

Aldon Hynes said...

Yeah, that's what we need, Anonymous endorsements!

Hi, I support Mayor DeStefano, but I can't tell you my name.


Hi, I'm not telling you my name, but I'm not supporting Mayor DeStefano because his BlogMaster disagreed with me over on Connecticut Local Politics.

(Talk about being sensitive.)


Hi. I'm anonymous and I'm endorsing Jodi Rell because I think the Democrats are like GM.

As to the common ground, I agree with people that suggest that the 5th CD is not strongly trending in one direction or another.

I disagree that pointing out the positives for Democrats in the 5th is analogous to spinning for GM.

I think we should be talking about all aspects of an issue and not simply dismissing people's whose opinions are different as spin.

Of course, I don't know if the person that posted anonymously at 5:14 is the same as the person that posted anonymously at 2:25 yesterday or 9:36 this morning.

DeanFan84 said...


How come none of the Republicans will even register a screenname? (except good ole ebpie)

Are they ashamed of their affiliation? I keep waiting to hear someone come out and support our President. Or at least admit they voted for the idiot.

Did anyone here vote for Bush?

Anonymous said...

Hey, I voted for George W, and I'm right proud of it.

You don't think Al Bore or John Fairy would have invaded Iraq and gotten them people who attacked us on 9/11?

Anonymous said...

Aldon, since it obviously angers your liberal self righteous derriere so much, I will remain among those 700,000 people in CT who don't exist in your world but did cast a vote for Bush..twice

Better to leave you guys all living in your own Pauline Kael village

Aldon Hynes said...


Care to explain what is so obvious to you? I'm not angry about anything and I fail to see what you consider I'm being self-righteous about.

I'm trying to carry on a discussion about what is going on the strengths and weaknesses of Republicans and Democrats in the 5th CD. I kind of thought that was the purpose of the post.

Nor do I see where you come up with the assumption that people from Connecticut who voted for Bush don't exist in my world. I actually have quite a few friends that voted for Bush.


Genghis Conn said...

Haven't we had this anonymous discussion before? People may post here under whatever name they choose, even though it creates confusion.

Anyone wanting to post under a consistent name but doesn't want to go through the annoying hassle of a Blogger username can just select "other" from the three options under "Choose an identity" on the comment screen. Type in whatever you want.

As for party strength in the 5th District, I more and more believe that the election results were more about dissatisfaction with incumbents and less about party. If there is an anti-incumbent mood in CD-5, that's much worse news for Nancy Johnson than an anti-Republican mood.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bloggers:

There are some of us given our backgrounds, connections, etc. who can't possibly provide names but who would like to give information where possible - this is why the anonymous function works well. We'd rather contribute as unnamed sources than not contribute at all.

A different anonymous ...

DeanFan84 said...

Get a screenname!

That's all I ask. It ain't difficult, and it is the proper thing to do.

I can't tell you how many famous bloggers are out there who have never been identified. (Atrios was for several years, DemFromCT, MeteorBlades, etc.)