The Quinnipiac Poll is out this week and it scores the Constitution State’s gubernatorial contest between Republican Bob Stefanowski, Democrat Ned Lamont, and Independent Oz Griebel as a too-close-to-call nail-biter (confirming similar findings in a recent Sacred Heart University poll). Lamont, a hard-core silver-spooned liberal (he beat Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Democrat Senate primary but lost to the incumbent in the general election) who loves taxes and tolls (that’s a big issue right now in CT) leads the GOP businessman 47-43.
Far behind at 7 percent but surely relishing his role as the spoiler is Griebel, a former Republican and ever Democrat-lover (part of the reason why he lost the GOP’s 2010 gubernatorial primary to the lackluster Tom Foley), who touts himself as a tough-talking businessman (he was a bank president in the early ’90s), but who for the past two decades has been more of a government-footsy-player (he heads the “MetroHartford Alliance,” a chamber-of-commerce-type entity claiming to be the engine behind the region’s economic growth, not something to brag about when there hasn’t been anything remotely looking like growth in one of America’s worst metropolitan areas). This week, Griebel won the endorsement of the Hartford Courant, which has championed every lunacy that has pushed Connecticut to its present fiscal-abyss edge.
The Stefanowski campaign has been criticized for being lackluster in what is a unique political environment: Connecticut’s populace is rightly distraught by the economic ruin brought about by a generation of Democratic rule, and they have grown to despise retiring chief executive, Dannel Malloy, who holds the worst favorability ratings (in the teens) of the nation’s governors. The question many ask is: Running against Malloy 3.0, shouldn’t Stefanowski be leading?
As for Lamont, a known quantity for over a decade: He cannot clear 50 percent. Stefanowski’s numbers are in the 40s too, but he has some room to grow among independent / unaffiliated voters who remain undecided about a generally unknown figure — one who has, given the environment, a more appealing campaign message that centers on job growth through cutting corporate and income taxes (and eliminating the estate and gift taxes), plus opposing tolls, and reducing government (and who has a likeable low-key personality).
With less than a week left, Stefanowski needs to add a few points to capture the governor’s mansion (and, one hopes, begin the long process of restoring Connecticut to fiscal sanity). Vastly outspent by Lamont, the fact that this race remains neck-and-neck is a positive for the Republican. Which surely explains why today the Republican Governors Association has announced a massive $3 million media buy on Stefanowski’s behalf . The establishment concluded he’d have been counted out by now. The establishment, once again, is wrong.
So how can Stefanowski pull it off? Late last year, with his pal Art Laffer (of the Curve fame), he produced a plan to restore Connecticut’s prosperity. Amidst its many comparative charts and graphs about how the state is No. 1 at being No. 50 is this promise: “Contract out as many of Connecticut’s public services as makes economic sense, and look to transform them into private-sector models where possible.”
That promise got some highlighting and definition in the candidates’ final debate on October 30, when Stefanowski declared he would privatize the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (he has hit it before on the hustings for blowing $20 million on a failed computer system). Sure, the DMV is a running joke in every state, but in a Connecticut, where government’s economic destructiveness is most keenly felt and acknowledged, taking on the one unavoidable agency that is a legitimate representative stand-in for that failure and abuse should be a vote-getter and victory’s margin.
These facts mandate his driving this home at his campaign’s eleventh hour: Connecticut is near-bankruptcy; DMV privatization and efficiency is possible; countless souls cringe at the thought of needing to take a vacation day to renew a license, turn in plates, change registration, and stand in line for hours to be served by surly bureaucrats (yes, the legend is also the reality).
Between now and Tuesday, if Bob Stefanowski — who refers to himself as “Bob the Rebuilder” — will promise Connecticut voters that Governor Bob will privatize the DMV and make necessary government compliance more convenient (Hey, isn’t Al Gore’s invention supposed to accommodate these sorts of things, like ordering license plates?), put an end to bureaucratic belittling of its citizens, and sell off the old torture chambers to help reduce the state debt, he will prevail.
By the way, I wrote this while standing in line at the DMV.
OK, that’s not true. But it could have been!