Governor Malloy’s tax and spending policies, Malloy’s unrelenting support for corporate education reform, Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen’s decision to undermine the historic education funding lawsuit and Malloy’s ongoing corporate welfare schemes that are giving successful private companies hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds has created a scenario in which a significant number of Democrats and unaffiliated voters give Malloy failing grades.
Now add the potential Republican candidates for Governor in 2014, and the political dynamics become increasingly complex.
According to a public opinion poll released yesterday by former Republican gubernatorial candidate, Tom Foley, “Incumbent Democratic Governor Dan Malloy is very vulnerable to a credible challenge in the 2014 election for Governor. Forty-seven percent (47%) of Connecticut voters indicate they believe it is time for a new person, and only thirty-seven percent (37%) believe that Malloy has done a good enough job to deserve re-election. “
The chairperson of Connecticut’s Democratic Party, Nancy DiNardo, responded by telling the Hartford Courant, “It appears that Tom Foley can find the time to further his political ambitions through shoddy polling, but not the time to say whether or not he would have supported the historic gun violence prevention bill the Governor signed into law last week.”
Polls released by politicians are always suspect and Foley’s position on gun control will certainly be a relevant issue in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, but DiNardo is overlooking a far more serious problem facing Connecticut Democrats.
A recent Quinnipiac Public opinion survey discovered that only 48 percent of Connecticut voters had a favorable opinion of the job that Governor Malloy is doing. Of even greater concern, only 72 percent of Democrats gave Malloy a favorable job rating and only 41 percent of unaffiliated voters rated the governor’s job performance favorably.
While much can change over the course of 18 months, if these numbers don’t improve substantially, and they have remained relatively steady since the day he was sworn into office, it would be very difficult for Malloy to win re-election.
Having closely monitored Connecticut voting patterns over the past four decades, it is safe to say that a statewide Democratic candidate CANNOT win when nearly 30 percent of registered Democrats don’t approve of the job they are doing.
In fact, to win, a statewide race, a Democratic candidate must have virtually universal support from Democrats and substantial support form unaffiliated voters.
While Governor Malloy’s job performance rating among Democrats is a paltry 72 percent, President Obama’s rating in Connecticut is just shy of 90 percent. Malloy has a major problem with his Democratic base.
A quick review of the other incumbent Democratic governors, around the country that will be up for re-election in 2014 provides humbling news for the Malloy camp.
Compare Malloy’s 48 percent job approval rating in Connecticut, to Governor Dayton’s 53 percent in Minnesota; Governor Cuomo’s 55 percent in New York; Governor Brown’s 57 percent in California; and Governor Hickenlooper’s 60 percent in Colorado just to name a few.
Even more telling, while only 72 percent of Democrats give Malloy a favorable rating, in a state like Minnesota, Governor Dayton’s positive rating among Democrats is 86 percent.
Even more troubling for Connecticut Democrats is that rather than building bridges, the Malloy administration seems to be doing almost everything it can to further alienate some of the most important constituencies that make up the base of the Democratic Party.
Malloy’s budget proposals, including deep cuts to essential services and doing away with the Public Payment in Lieu of Taxes grant is strengthening opposition to Malloy among many Democrats.
As the Governor who has made the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public colleges and universities, as well as the state’s student financial aid programs, he has sent a powerful message to Connecticut’s college students and their parents that his priorities are not in line with theirs.
And we know that Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and his corporate education reform colleagues, such as Paul Vallas and Steven Adamowski, are doing absolutely everything they can to further alienate vast numbers of public school parents, as well as, Connecticut’s teachers, retired teachers and those who support universal access to public education.
Add in Malloy’s multiple attacks on Connecticut’s public employees and retirees and you have a situation in which an extraordinarily large number of Democrats say that they don’t support the job the Governor is doing. Many of the Democrats who do not approve of Malloy’s job performance are the individuals who are heavily relied upon to volunteer and contribute to Democratic campaigns.
It is certainly unclear what will develop, but this situation leaves dedicated Democrats wondering.
One possibility is that a candidate will come forward to challenge Malloy for the Democratic nomination. Such an option is unlikely, especially since the power associated with incumbency would make it an extreme long shot, but Connecticut’s campaign finance law would make the race potentially competitive.
Alternatively, Democrats who are committed to the core values of the Democratic Party, and oppose Malloy’s policies, could seek to run a Democrat on an independent line as a way to give voters a new choice and lay the foundation for more significant changes to the party down the road.
The notion of re-capturing the principles of the Democratic Party by creating a new entity is not unique. In Minnesota, for example, a new entity, the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL) was created in 1944 and it soon eclipsed the older parties to become the state’s dominate governing political party. That effort was led, in part, by Hubert Humphrey who chaired the “Fusion Committee” that created the new party apparatus.
Since Connecticut voters are extremely comfortable with splitting their tickets and have even elected an independent governor and U.S. Senator in the recent past, the possibility of a new, more independent Democratic Party would have some key advantages for those who oppose Malloy’s policies.
Of course, the most obvious benefit is that by providing Democrats with a true democratic alternative, it could easily leave Malloy in third place should he chose to run for re-election.