Waking from a bad dream to a nightmare
In the dream, I’m sitting at a restaurant table with Ned Lamont and Bob Stefanowski. Yes, feel sorry for political reporters.
The board is set for eight diners. There is a red-checkered table cloth, stained with the remnants of the months-long food fight that got us where we are tonight.
There are, mercifully, five empty chairs, where their former opponents for the Republican and Democratic nominations for governor recently perched and have now dismounted, after state voters sent them packing to political Palookaville.
Well, at least Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton have runner-up prizes, wandering back to their respective city halls. The other dudes, like under-performing baseball managers, are spending more time with their families, at least until their next lucrative private-sector gigs are conjured.
After winning the GOP nomination at the May convention and traveling around the state in a traditional campaign, then falling prey to Stefanowski’s TV ads, Boughton’s not happy that he lost.
But the year-long commercials, supplemented by the carving stations that the Madison business executive underwrote at his bash in Foxwoods Resort & Casino, worked their magic.
They allowed Stefanowski to avoid the state Republican convention two floors below, as if it were a roomful of inspectors from the British Financial Conduct Authority, which assessed Dollar Financial, his last company, $19.8 million in fines for gouging consumers who sold themselves away for predatory, short-term loans.
Now, Republicans are saddled with the most Trump-like top of the ticket imaginable, with Stefanowski and Joe Markley, a state senator from Southington, as his running mate.
A server, who looks a lot like Oz Griebel, the independent candidate for governor, arrives with dessert: a bowl of figs and pair of fresh public-opinion polls.
That’s when I wake up.
As much as I like public-opinion polls, which are the lifeblood in the horse races for higher office, they should all be placed on double-secret probation after missing the big one: November, 2016, the election when the Trumpeteers came out of the woodwork to give our current president a multi-million-ballot loss in the popular vote.
Still, there are interesting statistics to be gleaned from the new Sacred Heart University/Hearst Connecticut Media Poll, and the return of the Quinnipiac University Poll to its home state after two years of focusing nationally. (October 19, 2016 — “Clinton Tops Trumps By 7 points”)
The Sacred Heart/Hearst poll, which gives Lamont a 4-percentage point lead over Stefanowski, within the margin of error, finds that more than two thirds of voters agree with the statement that “If Connecticut cannot solve its budget crisis by cutting state services and spending, raising taxes on people with incomes over $1 million would be fair and effective.”
That would kind of fly in the face of Stefanowski’s vague grasp of state government and what a governor can do to cut spending on the way to eliminating the personal income tax, which currently raises about half the annual $20-billion state budget.
These private sector guys — hello Tom Foley, runner-up to Gov. Dan Malloy in 2010 and 2014 — doing the corporate thing, seem to have trouble translating the skills that made them millionaires to the government sector, where the point is to provide services, not turn a profit.
That’s not to say that Lamont is any better prepared, with his public service limited to the Greenwich tax board and a seat on the state pension agency a quarter century ago. But he seems to have a grasp on the social-service goals of state government, and the role of public-service unions in the state economy.
The Quinnipiac University Poll, which gave Lamont a 13-point lead, finds that voters support raising the current $10.10-per-hour minimum wage to $15, by 63 percent to 33 percent. Republicans, though, lean against raising it.
And if Stefanowski is going to hang his hat with Trump, the Quinnipiac Poll’s finding that more than 58 percent of state voters disapprove of the president’s performance, is telling. It’s tough to win a statewide election with 30 percent of the vote, unless it’s in a five-way race like the recent GOP primary.
I’m wondering if the Republican Party will live to regret not electing Boughton, a moderate, for governor, and New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, a 31-year-old breath of fresh political air, as his running mate.
By the time this bad dream goes down, on November 6, I hope the people of Connecticut find out what they need to be educated voters.
Ken Dixon, political editor and columnist, can be reached at 860-549-4670 or at email@example.com. Visit him at twitter.com/KenDixonCT and on Facebook at kendixonct.hearst.