It's been twenty years.
If you're a Democrat, you know what I mean. Twenty years have passed since your party last elected a governor (Bill O'Neill's re-election in 1986). You don't feel good about that.
If you're a Republican, you might know what that means, too. It's been twenty years since the Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate in Connecticut (they lost that brief control in 1986). Although the GOP managed to capture the Senate for a brief time in the 1990s, they haven't even come close to regaining the House.
So both parties wander the wilderness, seemingly stuck in forms set nearly two decades ago.
Why is this happening? For Democrats, who think they own this state, it must be especially frustrating. On a statewide level, Democrats can't lose. They've elected both senators since 1988 (it hasn't even been close), and their entire underticket of statewide officers almost always wins. They have a solid hold on two of the congressional districts, and control the legislature by a ridiculously wide margin. Why is it so hard for them to win the governor's office?
Well, lousy candidates, for one. Bruce Morrison, Bill Curry, Barbara Kennelly and Bill Curry again. That, and surprisingly strong candidates from the Republicans (or independents, in the case of Lowell Weicker), who tend to cede every other statewide race to the Democrats without a fight.
Secondly, the governor's race is the only statewide contest the Republicans will actually put up a fight for. It's as if they realize that holding the executive brance is all that's standing between them and complete irrelevance.
As for the fact that Republicans haven't done well in legislative elections for two decades, that isn't much of a mystery. Overall, the demographics in Connecticut favor what the Democratic Party is right now, and the Republicans have been so terrible at supporting candidates who aren't running for Congress or for governor that change seems unlikely.
I suspect, however, that what's really behind a lot of this twenty-year stretch of futility is inertia. Voters vote for incumbents, by and large. They gave Rowland three terms, for crying out loud! Neither party has given voters a compelling reason to change their voting habits in a long time, because neither party is coherent, focused or strong enough to do so. Things can change on a candidate-by-candidate basis, if a challenger is extraordinary and takes advantage of a favorable situation. But overall, inertia seems to be carrying us onwards into more of the same.