Republican gubernatorial challenger Tom Foley leads incumbent Gov. Dannel P. Malloy by 43 percent to 40 percent in the latest Quinnipiac Poll released on Wednesday morning as the two rivals prepare for a rematch.
Foley, a Greenwich millionaire and prominent Republican fundraiser who served as the U.S. ambassador to Ireland, narrowly lost to Malloy in 2010 in the closest gubernatorial election in Connecticut in more than 50 years. Foley won 128 cities and towns, while Malloy won 41, including large cities like Bridgeport that proved to be the margin of victory.
Foley has repeatedly said that he is seeking a rematch in November 2014, which is 17 months away. Polls can vary widely as the election approaches, and politicians routinely say that early polls are simply a snapshot in time.
In other matters, voters surveyed by Hamden-based Quinnipiac are opposed to the approved proposal for legalizing keno gambling in the same way that they have been opposed in the past. Keno was included in the state budget at the last minute recently with no public hearing, and it was approved by the Democratic-controlled legislature in a two-year budget that was written with Malloy’s negotiators. Democrats blasted two similar proposals by Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell in 2009 and 2010, and a previous poll by Quinnipiac at that time showed that 70 percent of voters were opposed.
The poll also shows that voters favor the state’s new gun-control laws, which were signed into law by Malloy following the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. The approval of those laws was 57 percent to 37 percent.
Dr. Douglas Schwartz, the poll’s longtime director, says that Malloy gets a “lukewarm job approval rating” that has continued from the past.
“Since he has been governor, he has struggled with tepid job approval ratings, never rising above 50 percent,” Schwartz said. “So it is not surprising that in our first poll on the 2014 gubernatorial election, ‘Mid-40s Malloy’ runs neck and neck with his 2010 opponent, Tom Foley. Foley gave him a run for his money in 2010, losing by less than one percentage point.”
In a potential Republican primary, Foley leads all of his potential challengers – largely because his name recognition is high after his narrow defeat to Malloy in 2010.The poll shows Foley with 36 percent in a primary, compared to 11 percent for Senate Republican leader John McKinney of Fairfield and 8 percent for Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton. House Republican leader Larry Cafero, who along with McKinney has been a major critic of Malloy, trails with 4 percent. Among Republican voters, 37 percent are undecided over a potential primary.
“On the plus side for Malloy, Connecticut voters say 57 – 38 percent he has strong leadership qualities, no doubt due to his response to various crises in the state from Hurricane Sandy to the Newtown shootings,” Schwartz said in a statement released Wednesday morning. “Foley leads among independent voters, a key swing group, by 21 points. The reason this race is close is because Democrats outnumber Republicans in Connecticut.”
The poll showed that Foley has a favorable rating of 35 to 18 percent, while 46 percent said they had not yet heard enough about him. Schwartz noted that the other Republicans in a potential primary in August 2014 have even lower name recognition as those who say they do not know enough about those candidates ranges from 75 percent to a high of 84 percent.
But state Democratic chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said it is too early to make any judgments.
“Polls this far in advance of an election are rarely predictive of actual election outcomes, but since the Republicans are crowing about today’s Quinnipiac poll, I thought I’d offer a few thoughts on Tom Foley,” DiNardo said in a statement. “Once Connecticut residents are reminded of his opposition to the common sense gun safety bill Governor Malloy signed into law, and once people are reminded that he spent a career getting rich off destroying jobs and people’s financial security, and once people are reminded that he’s never done anything remotely close to guiding a state through crisis after crisis, his poll numbers will crater and voters will reject him just as they did in 2010. But let’s also remember that he’s not the nominee of the Republican Party yet, and the last few wealthy Republicans who tried to buy state offices failed.”
Malloy’s spokesman, Andrew Doba, said, “We have tried to be consistent in not saying much about polls because … what’s there to say? 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.”
Voters in the poll were asked about a variety of issues and how Malloy handled them. He scored best on his handling of gun policy following the December 14, 2012 shooting deaths of 20 children and six female educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School by shooter Adam Lanza.
Regarding gun policy, Malloy has an approval rating of 47 percent to 44 percent. They were also divided, 43 percent to 43 percent, on Malloy’s handling of education. Quinnipiac released the following ratings below:
- 55 – 35 percent disapprove of Malloy’s actions on the two-year, $44 billion state budget;
- 63 – 29 percent disapprove on taxes;
- 57 – 35 percent disapprove on the state’s economy.
Regarding the controversial issue of keno, those surveyed said that the gambling game should not be allowed in bars, restaurants, and convenience stores by 59 percent to 35 percent. Women are particularly against the legalization of keno by 65 percent to 28 percent.
Malloy has defended the gambling game, saying it is legal in the surrounding states of New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, as well as Maryland and others.