On the eve of a major visit by President Barack Obama to Connecticut to promote an increase to the minimum wage — part of a mid-term election year crucial to winning over women for Democrats — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy finds himself in a dead heat with his 2010 foe and would-be Republican challenger Tom Foley.
In its first public opinion poll on the race since last June, Quinnipiac University in Hamden has Malloy and Foley tied at 42 percent among registered voters, with the first-term incumbent’s job approval rating still less than 50 percent. The poll’s margin of error was 2.3 percent.
“Haven’t we seen this movie before? A potential rematch of Gov. Dannel Malloy vs Tom Foley couldn’t get any closer,” said Douglas Schwartz, director of the Quinnipiac University poll.
The overall numbers appear to be trending ever-so-slightly for Malloy, who trailed Foley 43 to 40 percent last summer and saw his job approval rating increase from 47 to 48 percent.
“We have tried to be consistent in not saying much about polls because, what’s there to say,” said Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Malloy. “Polls come and go, numbers go up and down . The governor always does what he thinks is best for the state and the right thing to do.”
Critics of the first-term incumbent keyed on Malloy’s sub-50 percent approval rating, as well as the poll’s finding that 46 percent of respondents do not believe the Democrat has earned a second term. Forty-five percent of respondents said that Malloy should be returned to office.
“The Quinnipiac poll released today confirms what I have been hearing all across Connecticut – citizens are discouraged by Connecticut’s ‘failure to thrive’ under Governor Malloy,” said Foley, a former U.S. ambassador to Ireland and private equity manager from Greenwich. “Whether it’s taxes, spending, jobs and the economy, or the problems facing people in our cities, voters sense things are not headed in the right direction. Voters understand that with the right leadership and better policies Connecticut can have the promising future we thought it had before Governor Malloy was elected. That is why I am running for governor and why a challenger is running neck and neck with a Democrat incumbent in a very blue state.”
State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield — regarded with Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton as Foley’s main competition in a crowded GOP field — trailed Malloy 43 to 37 percent in a hypothetical match-up.
Boughton, who ran on the ticket with Foley that lost by 6,500 votes in 2010, is behind 44 to 35 percent to Malloy. Among registered Republicans, Boughton fared better than McKinney in the pecking order of the GOP primary race, which some in the party expect to be a drawn-out contest.
The bad news for Boughton and McKinney is that Foley holds a 25-point edge over his nearest competitor in the Republican field.
“Look, I haven’t spent a nickel, and I’m seven points down to a sitting governor who has had all the free publicity and millions of dollars of advertising, and actually went out and has handed people a check, and they still won’t vote for him,” Boughton told Hearst Connecticut Media.
Boughton was referring to tax rebate legislation supported by Malloy. The GOP nominee for lieutenant governor in 2010, Boughton also took a swipe at his former running mate, Foley, saying that the “Greenwich millionaire” was only able to muster 36 percent of would-be Republican primary voters in the latest poll despite a personal investment of $12 million four years ago.
“This race is very much up for grabs,” said Boughton, who is in his seventh term as Danbury’s mayor.
McKinney attempted to throw water on the prospect of a rematch between Malloy and Foley in a prepared statement. The sharpest rhetoric came directly from in a talking points memo from his campaign, however.
“The first poll of the gubernatorial campaign shows that Connecticut voters firmly believe it is time for a change from the failed policies of Governor Dan Malloy,” the memo said. “It is equally clear, however, that voters do not think Tom Foley is the answer for our ailing economy. Republican voters should be very concerned to see that despite spending $10 million to achieve statewide name recognition, Ambassador Foley is viewed negatively by more than 20 percent of those polled, even before the Malloy machine throws what is sure to be its first well-financed punch.”
Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti; Joe Visconti, a tea party-aligned candidate from the capital region; and state Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, rounded out the field in the latest Quinnipiac poll.
When it comes to women voters, a core constituency seen as pivotal for the November election, Malloy holds a 45 to 37 percent advantage over Foley.
From Malloy up to the president, Democrats are widely perceived to be playing to women with the centerpiece of their election-year agenda — raising the minimum wage to $10.10.
The issue appears to be in their wheelhouse, with 62 percent of those polled by Quinnipiac saying they favored increasing the minimum wage to at least $10.10. A quarter of the respondents want no increase.
Malloy is scheduled to join Obama at Central Connecticut State University in the labor stronghold of New Britain Wednesday for a rally to promote the president’s minimum wage platform.
The president’s visit comes when his job approval rating is at its lowest among Connecticut voters at 45 percent.