AFTER AGREEING TO THE RULES, LAMONT PULLS OUT OF DEBATE; RUNS RADIO ADS SAYING HE WON THE LAST ONE

Is it only a matter of time before Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont is followed around by a college student dressed in a gigantic chicken costume? If so, it would be entirely appropriate.

Lamont is refusing to take part in a forum that was to be broadcast live from the Garde Arts Center in downtown New London in late July. The hour-long debate, was going to be presented by WTNH News8 and The Day of New London newspaper, and was also to be shown by WTNH’s sister station, WCTX , MyTV9.

On the surface, it makes perfect sense for Lamont to refuse. A) He is sitting on a double-digit lead in the polls and a pile of money that would enable him to hire LeBron James to put campaign signs in those so-hard-to-reach, high-up places; B) He already participated in one televised debate and Malloy ate his lunch. Malloy came through as the tried and tested leader while Lamont came off as the rich guy who answered questions in generalities because he has no record and can’t shake the look of Macaulay Culkin in the “Home Alone” movies.

But as the Aug. 10th primary approaches, we need to look beyond the surface and to see some rather stunning side stories that make Lamont appear like he is trying to run and hide—because he is.

It’s more accurate to say Lamont pulled out of the debate rather than refused to participate. And it’s an important distinction. There had already been serious meetings at The Garde with representatives from both the Lamont and Malloy campaigns. Both sides agreed on the format and ground rules; they drew numbers for order of speaking, even approved the invitations. There was not a hint as late as the last meeting that Lamont would bail.

To add insult to injury, Lamont is currently running radio ads trying to convince listeners that he won the last debate. The voice-over says, “Here’s what people are saying [about the last debate],” followed by anonymous, “everyday voters” praising Lamont’s performance. Even Lamont’s claim of victory was lame. The ad finishes with a “voter” saying, “I wouldn’t vote against either of them. But I’d vote for Ned Lamont.” If he really thinks he won the debate and by extension, won over voters, why wouldn’t he do it again?

Lamont’s campaign is turning into a cynical effort not to lose by playing a four-corners offense like he’s trying to beat John Wooden.

The good news for the informed voter is that the three candidates for the Republican gubernatorial nomination will meet in a debate July 28, in a forum that will be broadcast live from the Garde.