Thursday, April 20, 2006

An Afternoon With Joe Courtney

Yesterday afternoon, the UConn Law School community was treated to lunch with 2nd District Democratic Congressional Candidate Joe Courtney (Uconn Law '78).

As I noted previously (scroll down), Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Report named (subscription required) Rob Simmons one of the "10 Most Endangered House Incumbents" in Roll Call, The Cook Political Report called the race a toss up, and the Washington Post called the race one of the five races that will determine control of the House.

Add to that positive fundraising results and dismal approval ratings for the President, and we have ourselves a race!

First, the fundraising. Courtney has reported that he outraised Rep. Simmons in the first quarter of '06, $274,688.77 to $222,500 (est.). From Courtney's website:

Courtney's campaign has now raised $806,645.63 since it began last March. This total is over three times Courtney's fundraising at this point in the 2002 cycle, and nearly equal to the amount 2004 candidate Jim Sullivan raised on his October 2004 filing.

Simmons will be facing a much better funded opponent than he has seen in the last two cycles. Expect both the DNC/DSCC and the RNC/RSCC to dump cash into this race in the coming months.

Simmons will also be struggling under the weight of President Bush's staggering job approval ratings in CT. As Courtney noted yesterday, CT-2 had the largest margin of victory for Kerry over Bush in '04 that is represented by a Republican congressman (54%-44%). From that natural disadvantage, Simmons will also have to contend with the President's numbers: 27/69 in CT and 26/71 in CT excluding Fairfield, Hartford, and New Haven Counties (Approve/Disapprove).

And don't believe for a second that Joe Courtney will miss the opportunity to try to take advantage of this landscape. At numerous times yesterday he referred to Simmons as an "enabler" of the Republican agenda and noted his unwillingness to vote independently of the wishes of President and the Republican Party. Courtney also argued that the most important vote for a House member is the first vote: the vote to decide the House leadership; the vote that sets the agenda. Expect Courtney to paint Simmons' vote as one that fostered the "culture of corruption" symbolized by Tom DeLay, Denny Hastert, and John Boehner.

Joe Courtney previewed the main points that he will be making on the stump this fall. If you live in CT-2, you will be hearing about:

1. Medicare Prescription Drug Plan - Simmons voted in favor.

2. Energy Policy - Simmons voted for the plan, which includes a floating LNG platform off the coast of his district.

3. The war in Iraq - I think we have already discussed this issue enough on this blog; suffice it to say, you will be hearing about it again.

Courtney is an engaging speaker and the crowd at the law school was receptive to his speech. He seems to have honed his message to the three points mentioned above and delivers each complete with withering contrast between himself and Rob Simmons.

Joe Courtney has put together all of the pieces of an effective upset: resonant message, cash on hand, favorable demographics, and an unpopular President in the party of the incumbent. The deciding factor may be how much of anti-Republican tide is present in the fall.

UPDATE: Sources:

Rothenberg, Stuart, "RothenbergĂ‚’s 10 Most Endangered House Incumbents", Roll Call, 2/16/06.

Michak, Don, "2nd District race seen as a toss-up", Journal-Inquirer, 2/11/06.

Cillizza, Chris, "The 2006 Horse Race", The Fix, The Washington Post, 2/6/06.

No Author, "Campaign 2006: Key Races", The Washington Post, 2/6/06.

"Courtney Outraises Simmons", Courtney Campaign Press Release, Undated (4/06).

CT 2004 Presidential Election Results By Congressional District, Connecticut Secretary of State.

Results of SurveyUSA News Poll #8798.

"Simmons Plays Shell Game with Long Island Sound", Courtney Campaign Press Release, Undated (4/05).

Roll Call Vote #669.

Roll Call Vote #145.


TrueBlueCT said...

Where does Courtney stand regarding that other "enabler" of Bush?

I absolutely agree with Courtney's three big points, --the Drug Plan, the Energy Bill, and Iraq. But how can he make these arguments against Simmons, while at the same time supporting Joe Lieberman?

Is Courtney just another "Joe Hypocrite", scared of standing on principle?

I hope Courtney changes course, because if he doesn't, he won't win.

CT-2 might have favored Kerry over Bush, but Simmons still manages to come off as strong, principled and sincere. If Courtney wants to beat him, he needs to stop being so wishy-washy and stand up and be a man.

He could begin by calling on Lieberman to quit threatening anIndependet Run and to commit to the Democratic Primary, and the Party.

Paul Vance said...

I hope that Joe Courtney is allowed to run on his own record and accomplishments. I find Joe to be one of the finest people that I have met in politics. He is a excellent candidate and a better person.

ctkeith said...

Whats Courtney Going to do when Simmons Endorses Lieberman Too.

Everyone Knows Lieberman is Freindlier with Shays and Simmons than he is with Farrell and Courtney and Both Those Republicans will get enough cover from Joe on the war to win their seats.

It's just sad to watch these Ct house races take advice from the same Washington DC consultants who've lost every election since 1992.

TrueBlueCT said...


On the biggest issues, Lieberman sides with Simmons against Courtney. That's a fact. The two might as well be blood brothers.

So you tell me how Courtney is going to unseat an incumbent Congressman without standing on principle?

The statement is a simple one for Courtney, "Loyalty works both ways, and if the Senator wants my continued support, he needs to commit to the August 8th primary."

Courtney is a good man, and I'd like to see him replace Simmons. But how can he battle Rob on the Energy Bill and Iraq, and at the same time kiss Lieberman's ring? Honestly, it makes Courtney into an instant hypocrite, and renders his issue-driven campaign into one big joke.

Brass Tacks said...

Trubluect, why do you give the impression that if the Girl Scouts came to your door selling cookies that you'd ask them where they stand on Lieberman??

Good grief! Joe Courtney will face the voters alone, vs. Simmons. He gets into trouble EITHER WAY on answering the Lieber-Mont question.

JTWBlogger said...

I don't know alot about Courntey but its interesting he raised more money than Simmons. I also wonder if most of Simmons money came from lobbysists and pacs or from actual people and same question for Courtney?

Does anyone know where you can look up about these campaigns money and who gave it to them? I know there is a web site right?

BRubenstein said...

The congressional candidates made a huge mistake by taking sides ( supporting Lieberman)..the custom is to be neutral in a primary...

The most intense and most famous insurgent primary in the last 20 years ( and victory) is one in which i was the senior operative....Nappier vs. lecce...the congressional folks and constitutional officers stayed out of it.

Its a known fact ( and undeniable) that Lieberman has done and is doing "business" with the republican's in some manner every day...He worked with them on the Groton Sub-base and works with them all the time on issues and permits of all kinds for connecticut companies...

The democratic contestants did themselves a dis-service by supporting Lieberman when their most vocal and active base will be interested foremost in the senatorial primary and will be less then enthusiastic knowing that these 3 contestants are anti-war and for lieberman.

TrueBlueCT said...

Brass Tacks--
How do you feel about the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive war and Lieberman's overt support of it? Did Abu Ghraib make you embarrassed to be an American?

Even the Girl Scout knows right from wrong. What I'm asking is for our CT Dems to stand up for principle.

To be absolutely clear I haven't asked Courtney not to renege on his "endorsement" of Joe. What I have asked is for him to make that support conditional upon a commitment to the Democratic Primary. Then the grassroots might then be able to solve everyone's "Lieberman problem".

Otherwise, Lieberman will most likely drop out of the August Primary, and in the Fall do what Joe does best-- which is to run away from the Democratic base.

BRubenstein said...

Dear Trueblue;

There isnt even a hint that Joe will drop out of the primary and run as an independant.

All he said in interviews is that he wouldnt foreclose that as an option,but that he wouldnt do it.

There is absolutely no evidence of him even getting ready to run as an independant....petitions are ready at the SOS's office ( none have been picked up by joe or even ordered by joes folks)...a field staff either voluntary or paid for hasnt been independant PAC has been created to date....and no advance press musing on the idea by his operation has gone out.

As you may be aware petitions must be turned in just after the dem primary...

In ALL bigtime campigns that i have been involved with in a senior role, there have been day to day and week to week pollings and every day i knew how many delegates i had for a certain candidate. At this time, im sure Joe and his folks have a good idea of their delegate and polling situation ( Lamont would too) and since there is no evidence of any shift to an independant run by Joe it leads to the conclusion that he is indeed staying in the primary.

Genghis Conn said...

Courtney rated a visit from Bill Clinton in 2002, maybe we'll see more Democratic big shots coming to 2nd District population centers like Enfield (maybe!) and New London. I'm still not particularly excited about him, but we'll see if he does better this time than last. He had a lousy situation to deal with in 2002.

Then again, Simmons is not to be underestimated. I wouldn't for a second turn my back on a guy who can give a speech, pose for photos and drive himself to the hospital while choking on a four-inch piece of steak. Scary. He's like a cyborg or something.

Genghis Conn said...

I really don't care what Courtney thinks of Lieberman.

TrueBlueCT said...

I think you may be wrong.

When asked to rule out an Independent run, Lieberman didn't respond off the cuff. Instead he brought out a rehearsed talking point. "Every CT voter deserves a chance to vote for me in November." Joe then went on to say, point blank, that he wasn't ruling anything out.

Why would Joe make a costly statement like that if he was 100%committed to the Primary? Fact is he isn't.

Polls have a hard time gaugin turn-out, particularly in a Primary. My feeling is that if Ned gets close in the polls, in June or early July, Lieberman will retreat to November, dropping out with lots of talk about "those people who vote in Democratic primaries."

Schlesinger's entry has complicated things, but who knows if he is really in it for the long haul. To some degree his entry has helped Lieberman, so you have to wonder where he is coming from.

In any case, with Joe's upside-down approval ratings, I can't imagine him hanging out to lose in a Dem primary to Lamont. Why not gamble on November.

P.S. The petitions are nothing. Nader just wrote a check, and $50,000 could get the job done in one weekend. (they aren't due until August 9th.)

BRubenstein said...


We are on the same page in the primary...i think Joe will make a decision shortly before the convention on staying in or not at least thru the convention...and trust me, if Lamont gets 15% or more of the delegates that will be a huge huge win for a unknown candidate who only announced to run in March.

Additionally, Lamont is gaining support every day and Joe appears stagnant...i wouldnt be surprised to see Joe bolt subsequent to the convention but before the primary.

TrueBlueCT said...

Yeah, and the Dems are fools if they give Joe their endorsement without getting a commitment to the Primary in return.

I really think the Malloy, DeStefano, Murphy, Farrell, & Courtney camps should have a summit over this. Without a pledge to the process, they should take back their endorsements. If not, they are leaving the door open for a fall catastrophe.

Mr. Reality said...

You can talk about George Bush all you want but he is not running this year!! That is going to make it difficult for Courtney. Jodi Rell is running is she going to get an anti-Republican backlash?

If Courtney were running against Bush in the 2nd he'd win in a landslide but he's not running against Bush. Courtney is also anti-defense, that will not go over well down in New London. The sub base is a big deal in the 2nd I just don't think Joe can provide an answer as to why he'd be a better candidate for that region.

I saw yesterday that John Larson is now powerful because he has raised a lot of PAC money (mostly out of state)...where are all the Democrats? Why is this okay? Common Cause where are you? Rob rasies money out of state it's bad. I don't get it.

One final thing that really irritates me. I have met Joe Courtney and he is a really nice man. I respect him but I disagree with his policy and many of his views. Rob too is very nice guy. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn't make them a bad person...something a lot of people in politics and especially in this state need to understand.

BRubenstein said...

TrueBlue...thats a nice concept but there needs to be a "neutral" whom is repected by all to put the summit together...The State Party Chair would be the ideal choice..but she has sold herself to Joe...There is no party "elder" who hasnt already taken a position or who wants to be the neutral broker...

Gabe said...

Mr. Reality -

I am confused as to what you are responding to -

No where did I argue that Simmons is bad because his money comes from out of state or that Rob Simmons is a bad guy.

Also, would you care to back up the claim that Joe Courtney is "anti-defense"?

Finally, I wonder if CT voters are smart enough to realize that, even though Bush's name is not on the ballot, one candidate has ideas that are in line with his and one candidate doesn't. I bet they are that smart; you seem to be saying they aren't.

Mr. Reality said...

With all due respect Gabe you listed three issues that Courtney is going to hammer home this campaign. All three issues criticize Simmons vote, yet nowhere does it say what Courntey believes on these issue. How is a voter going to know where Courtney stands on an issue if he doesn't articulate it? I have no idea where Joe Courntey stands on Energy, Medicare, Social Security. I guess he's against the war but he hasn't said much about what we should do in Iraq.

As to your second point, a liberal saying they are pro defense is like a consevrative saying they are pro-union...they just don't match up. So it would take a lot of convincing. So far I haven't heard Joe say one word about increasing defense spending but I could be wrong. BTW I am pro-union but I doubt you believe me. lol

The third point was not aimed at you. It's just my feeling about politics in's gotten real nasty. Rob and Joe Courtney are both real nice guys and we should debate the issues... like the olden days.

TrueBlueCT said...

Mr. Reality--
In what fairy tale world is Simmons a nice guy? You have seen the catalogue of nasty mailings the NRCC has put out in the last two cycles, right?

And the TV ads against Sullivan last go round were about as offensive as they get.

What you're hoping is that we continue to play nicey-nice. In my opinion the gloves should come off. The CIA/Phoenix program guy helped get us into another Vietnam.

And please quit with the "weak on defense" stereotyping. It's gotten quite old, and we all know that America has gotten weaker, not stronger, under GOP rule.

disgruntled_republican said...


You said it yourself, "nasty mailings the NRCC has put out". It was the NRCC, as it was the DRCC, not Simmons or Courtney or Sullivan. These mailings and commercials have caused the nastiness to come into play abd surely will agian. I am already getting messages at my home against Simmons. I have received nothing against Joe yet.

I entirely disagree with you on Simmons not being a nice guy. He really is a great guy. And the happy go lucky attitude he displays...its real.

I think Joe is a nice guy too. He did his best to represent his district when he was in Hartford and I am sure he would in Washington too. I do, however, think his reserved composure hurts him against Rob who is very out going and energetic.

But this isn't about who is or isn't a nice guy now is it? The real question is who is best suited to represent the 2nd in Washington. I have read everyone saying all the bad Rob has done, and while I dispute that too, I will leave it for another time. However, nobody has mentioned the good Rob has done. He helped save the SubBase (with Rell, Lieberman and Dodd), has worked to keep 1,000s of EB workers their jobs (if you don't buy that, ask their union which backs Rob every time), has delivered millions of dollars in federal aid to towns throughout the district (ask just about any Mayor or First Selectman how much). I can tell you he has delivered numerous grants totally close to $10 million to Enfield alone.

And the fact is, despite what D's may cry, Irag is not a resonating issue in this campaign. There is no outrage from John Q public aside from the lefties.

The people of the 2nd Dist (those who dont llive it wouldn't know this) like Rob and if Joe doesn't give them a reasson not only to dislike ROb but to like him, he has no shot.

disgruntled_republican said...

Oh...and CIA agents follow orders. THat's what Rob that his fault?

Top-n-Center said...

I believe Rob Simmons has been a very accessible, and very reponsive representative to the people and communities of District 2...

With a career in military and intelligence matters I sleep better at night knowing he is in DC capable of asking the right questions and leveraging his experience for muncipalities, the State of CT and our nation.

And as much as that sounds like freakin ad copy, its the plain truth that I think voters in this District understand to be true.

JoeC is very nice, intelligent man with some reasonably intereting ideas. But at the end of the day though, he's up against an equally appealling gentleman who's stood up for this constituents well, and has an incredible knack of knowing how to get things done.

And PS, like disgrntled_repub, I've started getting nasty recordings and way left-leaning polls at home already. Sounds like Mr. Courtney's got the same machine he and the Dems roundly criticized the Simmons camp for engaging last time around...

Mr. Reality said...


I honestly have not heard one word from Joe Courtney about ANY defense issue, and in your attack on me you too failed to give an example. Just one!

Gabe said...

Mr. Reality -

You are right that, as of April 20th, Joe Courtney's positions on Medicare, Energy, and Iraq are not that defined. Considering that, aside from the denizens of this site, no one will pay attention until after the summer, I am not all that shocked (or put out).

That said, how does an argument that Courtney has not defined his positions make it that Joe Courtney is anti-defense?

Or that George Bush's approval ratings will be a factor in the election?

Or that that says anything about PAC money (or that anyone else in this thread even brought up PAC money)?

I am missing the connection.

Also, and just for the record, a D after someone's name does not make them "anti-defense". Neither does disagreeing with this administration on the military. Speaking of providing evidence, this:

As to your second point, a liberal saying they are pro defense is like a consevrative saying they are pro-union...they just don't match up. So it would take a lot of convincing.

is not evidence. Pot, meet kettle.

Gabe said...

D_R -

This jumped out at me:

And the fact is, despite what D's may cry, Irag is not a resonating issue in this campaign. There is no outrage from John Q public aside from the lefties.

The SUSA poll (linked above) doesn't show reasons why Bush's approval is so low in CT.

The new Fox poll (900 Registered voters nationwide) did a follow up question to get the reason behind the approval/disapproval. Here are the results:

The overall approval/disapproval rating was 33/57 (the lowest approval to date for the Fox News poll).

Of the 57% who disapprove, the largest block was those who disapprove of his handling of Iraq (48%). If you are keeping score at home, that would be 27.36% of registered voters who based their disapproval. Would that it were 27% of America that were "lefties".

Incidently, Bush's approval rating among Republicans is down 18 points since this time last year, and is under 70% for the first time (all according to the accompanying article). Unfortunately, the reasons for approval/disapproval is not broken down by party identification and does not include trendlines.

Gabe said...

Neither here nor there, but check out question 10 about immigration (in the new Fox News poll). Talk about wording a question to determine your results!

truth squad said...

bruce, i was at that convention with the 'insurgent' primary. as a delegate i was told to switch my vote by elected CT officials so please stop pretending that CT electeds never get involved in primaries...

BRubenstein said...

dear trutsquad...the elected officials were not in it this early...and certainly didnt attend a press event where all the congressional and constitutional officers endorsed one candidate.

truth squad said...

bruce, i understand that, and you are right. however, your assertion that elected officials didnt get involved in the primary you cite is false. i know, i changed my delegate vote on the floor upon orders of one.

disgruntled_republican said...


I am not surprised by the results of that poll, nor should anyone be. I am not sayig that 27.7 are "lefties". What I am saying is that the Iraq issue as a whole will not be a major issue in THIS campaign. Remember Bush is commander-in-chief, not Simmons. Will it have some effect? You betcha. Will it be a issue large enough to campaign? Not a chance. Fact is we are there. Sure Rob voted for it but so did Chris Dodd. Hard to fault Rob in one breath then stand with Dodd in the next. That surely would be the pot caling the kettle black as you so eloquantly said earlier.