If you can name all five GOP candidates for Connecticut's down-ballot constitutional offices, you are probably an employee of the Connecticut GOP. Otherwise you really need to get out more.
On paper the "fearsome fivesome" are not terrible candidates. Only Peter Lumaj has a history of extreme right-wing statements and will have to overcome association with the tea party. Two are women (Lieutenant Governor candidate Heather Bond Somers and Comptroller candidate Sharon McLaughlin); they represent a greater geographical diversity than Connecticut Republicans usually manage (shockingly only one is from Fairfield County), and there is even a foreign-born candidate (Albanian immigrant Peter Lumaj, who previously ran in the GOP primary against Linda McMahon for US Senate in 2012, for Secretary of the State). After two terms of tormenting Nancy Dinardo as first selectman of Trumbull, the 34 year old Tim Herbst is a "rising star" in the CT-GOP (though look how well that worked out for John Rowland) and widely considered the GOP's best chance for a downballot pick-up.
The problem for this otherwise plausible-sounding crop of candidates is that three of them have never been elected to anything and their statewide name recognition is nonexistent with less than two months to go until the election. And the GOP's only plan for getting these candidates elected is the wildly optimistic strategy of riding Tom Foley's coattails into office. That would not be a particularly good basket to put all one's eggs in, even if Foley were actually a good candidate.
In 2010, when Foley and Malloy were separated by less than 1%, none of the GOP down-ballot candidates came anywhere close to winning. Secretary of the State candidate Jerry Farrell was the most competitive, losing to Denise Merrill by 9.1 percentage points. Martha Dean, Jack Orchulli, and Jeff Wright all lost by 10 points or more. In other words, a similar crop of no-name GOP candidates ran about 10 points behind Foley. It would be reasonable to figure that in 2014 Foley would have to defeat Malloy by more than 10 points in order for the GOP to be competitive in the downballot races.
Foley appears to be 3-5 points ahead of Malloy in the current polling average -- but most of the undecideds are Democrat-leaning and voted for Obama in 2012, and it will be difficult for Foley to move them into his column as long as he fails to bring some polish to his amateurish campaign. Perhaps only Chris Healy (Connecticut's own "Baghdad Bob") and his friends at Newsmax think Foley will win by enough to sweep the GOP under-ticket into office.
Here is your handy guide to the GOP's "fearsome fivesome" of downballot contenders:
Heather Bond Somers -- Lieutenant Governor. Former Groton Mayor Somers was Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton's running mate until she left him at the altar. It didn't make Boughton loyalists happy but worked out all right for her when Boughton's pathetic campaign collapsed and she narrowly defeated endorsed candidate Penny Bacchiochi and David Walker in the GOP primary. She also got into an unfortunate spat with the Bacchiochi campaign about "white privilege" in the Republican Party, which led to the firing of a Bacchiochi campaign aide and a blistering editorial in the New Haven Register calling the CT-GOP clueless on discussions about race. She has little statewide name recognition but provides some geographical and gender balance to the GOP ticket.
Peter Lumaj -- Secretary of the State. Lumaj ran for US Senate in 2012 on a platform of opposing "socialism" and compared President Obama and congressional Democrats to Cold War-era communist dictators in his home country of Albania. He accused GOP rivals Linda McMahon and Chris Shays of being RINOs before dropping out of the race in June. Lumaj lives in Fairfield and has a law office in New York City, but is not licensed to practice law in either New York or Connecticut. According to the endorsement statement of a tea party group, "Peter escaped Communist Albania along with three of his brothers. His parents and seven other siblings were not so lucky and suffered greatly at the hands of the communist government. Having actually seen and endured political persecution that actually cost lives gives Peter a unique perspective." He has 425 Likes on facebook and 246 followers on twitter.
Sharon McLaughlin -- Comptroller. She is currently the secretary of the Ellington (population 12,921) Republican Town Committee. By her own admission, McLaughlin jumped into the race only because no other Republicans seemed interested in taking on Kevin Lembo. Another neophyte candidate named Angel Cadena also entered the race just before the GOP convention. She defeated Cadena in the August primary. She has never held any elective office. According to her website, she is an accountant whose work experience includes "internal accounting roles and business operations." Her other qualifications (according to her website) include being a member of something called the "Ellington Winterfest Committee." She has been cross-endorsed by the Independent Party.
Tim Herbst -- Treasurer. Becoming first selectman of Trumbull in 2009 at age 29, Herbst has been the nemesis of Trumbull resident and state Democratic Party Chair Nancy DiNardo for the last five years. A rising star in the Connecticut GOP, Herbst has qualified for public financing and many believe he is the GOP's best chance for a down-ballot pick-up.
Kie Westby -- Attorney General. A Marine Corps Reservist and attorney, Westby lives in Southbury and is a member of the Republican State Central Committee. He supports repeal of the state income tax and abandoning Common Core. He has endorsements from several tea party groups. According to the Tea Party Caucus of CT-GOP town committees, Westby "pledges to use the Constitution as 'an operations manual' and to support the Bill of Rights." He has 354 likes on Facebook.
None of these candidates are in a particularly enviable position: their fates are almost completely dependent on a man, Tom Foley, who couldn't care less about any of them (except Somers, whose fate is directly intertwined with his). But what do you expect from a party that recruits four of six candidates for constitutional offices who have no elective experience at all, and a party that hasn't won a single statewide race since 2006?
Yes, ISIS is terrible and they are doing terrible things - but terrible things are happening all over including Africa, for example, and Ukraine (both sides, by the way). The hue and cry to take up arms once again in the Middle East is hard for any politician to resist, and midterm elections loom.
Chris Murphy is one who has kept his head in all of this, and he just released a statement that shows a modicum of restraint:
Last night, the president of the United States laid out a strong, compelling case for taking the fight to ISIS..
However, I do not believe that a comprehensive attack on ISIS must include a commitment to arm and train the Syrian rebels. Indeed, this tactic could backfire and be counterproductive to our goal of eliminating ISIS. It will be very difficult to thread the needle of supporting a Shiite regime against a Sunni insurgency in Iraq while, at the same time, supporting a Sunni insurgency against a Shiite leader in Syria. This will make it hard to put together lasting regional coalitions. Further, it is increasingly impossible to sort out rebels who are friendly to the United States and those who are not. I want ISIS defeated in Syria and I want Bashar al-Assad to pay for his crimes. But too much can go wrong, for not enough possible gain, if the United States increases its involvement in the Syrian civil war.
But most importantly, Congress needs to authorize this war. I do not believe that the Authorization for Military Force passed in the days following September 11th grants the president the power to conduct an open ended, long term war against ISIS. Congress needs to fulfill its Constitutional duty and debate the president's proposal for military action. This is too important to not have all voices at the table before moving forward.
Tellingly, Foley voters said they were voting against Malloy instead of for Foley by a whopping 62-33 percent. The opposite was true of Malloy voters, who said they were voting for Malloy instead of against Foley by 58-33 percent. What this means is that the scare campaign to make voters afraid of Tom Foley really isn't working, and that Malloy is doing a lousy job of selling his own policies.
This puts the governor in a very bad position heading into the fall campaign, and a lot of it is his own fault. Malloy has never been particularly good at defending his policies in ways that connect with people, and that's shown in his campaign. He's struggling to find a message that works; so far hitting Tom Foley for being too gloomy or painting him as a ruthless capitalist isn't cutting it.
Foley has found his own very simple and effective message: the Malloy years have been a disaster. Voters are inclined to agree, which is why Foley can run an uninspired, gaffe-prone campaign and still get lots of votes based on how bad the other guy is.
To make matters worse, Democrats, usually the driving force in Connecticut politics, have been given very little to rally around. The party is divided over education and labor, and Malloy's attempts to patch things up have seemed like tokens at best. The visit from Bill Clinton could have been a game-changer, or at least it might have stopped the bleeding a little bit by getting Democrats excited about the race again. Instead, Clinton's speech, delivered before a less-than-capacity crowd in a hotel ballroom instead of outdoors in front of a cheering throng, turned into an optical disaster. Democrats, instead of getting pumped up for the campaign, have been left grumbling.
Ouch. Given that this is a likey voters poll, this is not good news for the Governor.
Connecticut likely voters say Tom Foley, the Republican challenger in the governor's race, would do a better job than Gov. Dannel Malloy, the Democrat, handling two top issues, the economy/jobs and government spending, as they give Foley a 46 - 40 percent lead eight weeks before Election Day, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
Foley leads 82 - 9 percent among Republicans and 48 - 35 percent among independent voters, while Gov. Malloy takes Democrats 77 - 10 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN- uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. This survey of likely voters can not be compared to prior surveys of registered voters.
Malloy's 45 - 38 percent lead with women is offset by Foley's 54 - 35 percent lead among men.
Joe Visconti, running as an independent candidate, gets 7 percent of the vote. When the race is recalculated without Visconti, Foley leads Malloy 49 - 43 percent.
Among Connecticut likely voters who name a candidate, 69 percent say their mind is made up, while 30 percent say they might change their mind by Election Day. Their minds are made up, say 68 percent of Malloy voters and 77 percent of Foley backers, while 75 percent of Visconti supporters say they might change their mind.
"In our first likely voter poll, Tom Foley has the edge but Gov. Dannel Malloy is certainly within striking distance," said Douglas Schwartz, PhD, director of the Quinnipiac University poll. "Foley has a double-digit lead among the key swing group, independent voters. With eight weeks until Election Day, there are 6 percent undecided and another 30 percent who say they could change their mind."
A key problem which has always been a problem with the governor is his high negative favorability rating, which as Doug Schwartz explains is hard for an incumbent to overcome.
"A difficult problem for Malloy to overcome is his high negative favorability rating, as 53 percent say they have an unfavorable opinion of him, including 40 percent who say they have a strongly unfavorable opinion," Dr. Schwartz added.
"It is tough for a well-known incumbent to change voter opinion once formed. In contrast, only 33 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Foley."
Connecticut likely voters have a negative 40 - 53 percent favorability rating of Malloy. Foley gets a positive 42 - 33 percent favorability rating. For Visconti, 89 percent don't know enough about him to form an opinion.
With less than two months till Election day,
the fact that the Governor is losing to a candidate who, until moments until the first debate in late August couldn't provide details of his plan for the state should give you an clue about serious problems Malloy faces.
Not to say that there isn't time for Governor Malloy to close the gap but that time is running out...and fast.
For Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the Ravens' firing of running back Ray Rice on Monday doesn't come close to addressing how the NFL deals with domestic violence. He said the league "deserves special scrutiny" for such matters.
Blumenthal said he won't "rule out" Congressional involvement to pressure the NFL to alter its "deep-seated fundamental far-reaching problem" involving domestic abuse.
The Connecticut Democrat, who has been a sharp critic of the NFL's handling of domestic violence issues, said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's leadership has been "completely lacking," adding that it should not require recorded evidence to punish someone for abuse.
If Republican fiscal policies really are the key to prosperity, if the GOP formula of low taxes and little regulation really does unleash economic growth, then why has the country fared better under Democratic presidents than Republican ones and why are red states the poorest states in the country?
As of 2010, according to the Census Bureau, Connecticut, which has not awarded its electoral votes to a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, had a per capita income of $56,000, best in the country, while Mississippi, which hasn't gone Democrat since 1976, came in at under $32,000 - worst in the country. At the very least, stats like these should call into question GOP claims of superior economic policy.
Yet, every election season the party nevertheless makes those claims. It will surely do so again this fall. So it seems fair to ask: Where are the numbers that support the assertion? Why is Texas only middling in terms of per capita income? Why is Mississippi not a roaring engine of economic growth? How are liberal Connecticut and Massachusetts doing so well?
This is a question every Democrat being challenged by a Republican or Teapublican should ask their opponent.