One doesn’t need a new Quinnipiac Poll to know Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly are in real danger of losing the majority—particularly in the Senate—for the first time since 1996. Just the same, the latest Q-Poll, released Wednesday solidifies the thought: perception-wise, Democrats suffered through one of their worst legislative sessions in years. Gov. Dannel Malloy is not just one the ropes, he’s on the canvass. Can they turn it around before the election this fall?
Democrats in the state Senate and House have the unenviable task of trying to distance themselves from Gov. Malloy who has the lowest approval rating of his tenure and one of the lowest approval ratings for a governor ever in states in which Quinnipiac polls.
The perception which may or may not be reality is that Malloy doesn’t care what his approval rating is—not in the sense that he’s doing the right things and polls be damned, but in the sense that he just doesn’t care. When he didn’t get his way on his “Second Chance Initiative,” he whacked local aid. He’s going to do what he wants. Somehow he has managed to be viewed in some national quarters as being a progressive success story while being ranked somewhere between the guy who gouged cancer patients on drug prices and the Zika virus.
Malloy’s budget priorities, tough decisions though they were, fell disproportionally on those who can least afford to lose services—hospitals, health centers, the developmentally challenged, the most vulnerable who utilize social services. Not only did it seem heartless, it hit at the core constituencies of the Democratic Party.
Combine this with disenchanted state employee unions that went so far as to protest at the Democrats’ biggest fundraiser and it spells trouble.
Legislative Democrats can look beyond Malloy’s problems to see their own. The very eye-opening part of the latest poll is that virtually no one (actually 3 percent which is just about the margin of error) is very satisfied with how things are going in the state. A full 72 percent are either somewhat or very dissatisfied. That’s shocking. It’s the lowest rate ever.
Democrats came out of the latest budget process battered, bruised and portrayed as clueless and out of touch. That’s unfair. Senate President Marty Looney had the almost impossible task of trying to work with House Speaker Brendan Sharkey who in turn, had the almost impossible task of herding his rank and file cats. Young House members—some of whom got a taste of the media spotlight and well, loved it—could not be kept on the reservation. They mutinied at nearly every turn.
Republicans, meanwhile, did little to contribute to any solution but certainly played the political game wonderfully. Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano gets it and managed to have not just both ways but all ways. He demanded to be let into the budget deliberations but walked when Dems were going to do what they were to do. After that, he used a steady stream of news releases to hammer the governor for proposing and the majority for agreeing to what amounted to draconian social service cuts.
The brilliant part of Fasano’s strategy was that even though all Republican alternative budget plans relied heavily on labor concessions, it’s the Democrats who are incurring the wrath of the unions. Perhaps it’s because labor doesn’t expect help from Republicans and usually has the Democrats deep in its pocket.
Democrats’ dismissive attitude toward Republicans creeps into arrogance. For instance, in responding to a GOP call for a delay on a certain budget vote, Senate Dems spokesman Adam Joseph released a statement that started, “Listen, the Republicans put themselves in a tough spot by rejecting the budget out of hand…” “Listen? He’s telling us to “Listen?”
It doesn’t take much imagination to see the direct mail pieces that will fill voters’ mail boxes this fall. They will basically say, “Are you happy with things as they are in Connecticut after some 20 years of Democratic control of both chambers of the General Assembly and after six years of Dannel Malloy?” The answer should scare Democrats.