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ANALYSIS AND MAP: Malloy wins everywhere, progressive coalition nowhere to be seen

by Susan Bigelow | Aug 13, 2010 1:03pm
(13) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election 2010, Opinion

Chris Bigelow map

The first thing this map shows us is an overwhelming victory for Dan Malloy. Even I was shocked by just how many towns he won, and by how many towns, conversely, Ned Lamont had lost.

As usual, I started looking for patterns. Most elections have some sort of geographic and demographic pattern to follow which helps to unlock why certain things happened. But, looking at the small scattering of towns won by Ned Lamont, I have to confess: there is no pattern. I just don’t see one. And that right there is the story of this election.

Let’s go back a few cycles. In August, 2006 a highly motivated coalition of antiwar liberal Democrats rocketed Ned Lamont to victory. They proved unable to win the general election for Lamont, but their presence helped tip the scales against two longtime Republican members of Congress: Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons. In fact, the success of Lamont was in some ways a precursor to the huge Democratic gains that year.

In February of 2008, the next statewide primary, Connecticut Democrats gave Barack Obama a narrow win over Hillary Clinton. When I mapped out the 2008 primary I noticed a distinct relationship to the 2006 primary map. The winners in each case were strong in the cities, Litchfield County, Fairfield County, the extreme southeast of the state, Middlesex County, the Farmington Valley, the UConn area, and certain wealthier suburban towns. This was the footprint of the progressive, anti-establishment Democratic coalition that delivered for both Lamont and Obama.

Click here for 2006 map and here for 2008 map.

So, where is that coalition now? The towns won by Lamont seem almost random, scattershot across the map. Sure, he won (barely) in Hartford and Bridgeport, but lost New Haven and all of the smaller cities. Lamont won two Litchfield towns, but the rest went for Malloy. He won in his hometown of Greenwich and in Ridgefield, but nowhere else in suburban Fairfield County. What about West Hartford? Mansfield? Windsor? Cornwall? Windham? These reliable liberal towns all went for Malloy. The closest the map comes to showing any kind of pattern whatsoever is the thin line of Farmington Valley towns. Embarrasingly, Lamont’s biggest win came in Simsbury—probably only because his running mate is the town’s First Selectwoman.

What happened?

First, Lamont was presumably the progressive favorite, but he may have made a mistake by trying to run to the center before the primary was over. This allowed Malloy to poach territory with unions and other traditional Democratic groups on his left flank, leaving progressives with little beyond memories to rally around when it came to Lamont. Many of them either stayed home or voted for Malloy.

Second, it’s obvious that Malloy and his campaign understood the nature of this primary. The conventional wisdom was that the cities were locked up for Lamont, but Malloy campaigned there anyway and either won or came very close. He also aggressively courted unions, and by and large was successful (this may come back to haunt him in the general election). Malloy also came on strong right at the end of the campaign, which is when most likely voters were waking up to the idea that yes, there was in fact a primary happening. Lamont’s run of negative ads and mailers at the end of the campaign didn’t help either—it seems they had a much worse effect than Malloy’s negative ads, which ran earlier.

Lastly, this is a state election, focused solely on Connecticut issues, and the kinds of voters who turn out to choose who goes to Washington may act very differently, or may not turn out at all, for these contests. There is a strong possibility, after all, that Malloy might have won had Lamont not shared a ballot line with John DeStefano in 2006.

So what does this mean for the coalition of progressive Democrats that won in 2006 and 2008? They’re probably still there. They may show up again in 2012 to decide who will take on Joe Lieberman. But this year, they seem dormant—and not just in Connecticut. It’s impossible not to ask whether that could be another sign of trouble for Democrats trying to hold on to majorities in Washington. Activist energy helps drive turnout, and if Democrats don’t have it, they could be in for a very long winter.

(note: blank areas on the map had no data available at the time of writing)

Chris Bigelow is the former owner/author of Connecticut Local Politics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and cats.

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(13) Comments

posted by: Martha H | August 13, 2010  1:19pm

Martha H

Many progressives I know are quite certain that there was no progressive candidate in the Democratic gubernatorial primary after May. 

{So, little reason to vote, see?}

posted by: Adamec | August 13, 2010  2:02pm

Chris,

There is a pattern. It’s blue.

Andover, Thompson, Canterbury… 13 to 15 towns, those are outliers.

posted by: Martha H | August 13, 2010  2:49pm

Martha H

Pattern?  Is this wallpaper?  (I like stripes…)

Neither Dem candidate for governor offered a single innovative, memorable, help-the-people idea.  Which meant most people wouldn’t vote (why waste the time?), and those that WOULD vote had no substance upon which to make their decision.  So they had to “go by gut.”  At the start, the gut said that Lamont had a higher moral standard, because he opposed Iraq and fought Lieberman and got screwed by Lieberman (victim=goodness) and he ever gave up.  Malloy”  Just your ordinary, experienced, persistent, nonentity pol. 

But when Malloy went negative (AND with no policy differences between them…), Lamont’s vague “moral” image was tarnished.  And when Lamont refused to debate, it was tarnished further.  Finally, when Lamont himself went negative, he totally blew the gut-feeling “moral high ground” thing.  (Few held Malloy’s negative ads against him - after all, he was just your typical politician doing what they do….)  But take away that squishy “auru of goodness,” and what in the world did Lamont have left?  A super-rich dude from super-rich-land.  A guy we sorta vaguely thought was above it all, but we got burned because he really kinda, in the end, wasn’t.

Thus, “match,” for stupid reasons, really, to Malloy.

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | August 13, 2010  3:44pm

GoatBoyPHD

It’s even more lopsided when the outliers are looked at closely and 6 of those cities were won by a grand total of 50 votes.

He won Bridgeport by under 30 votes. He won his hometown by 16 votes.

Other than Hartford and Glassman’s terrirory (Avon and Simsbury) Lamont won the rest by about 150 votes total.

Call him McGovern.

posted by: wtfdnucsailor | August 13, 2010  4:40pm

Hurrah!!  A famous Chris Bigelow map.  Great Analysis.  Keep up the good work GC.

posted by: Tim White | August 13, 2010  11:47pm

ditto on Sailor… hurrah!  But GC… any chance you have the time to do GOP Senate??  My own feeling on this race was that Malloy wants to be Governor, while Lamont wants to be elected… and I felt that way last December when Ned jumped in.  I see legislators and executives serving two different roles.  And I’m fine with a Guv running for Senate or vice versa… but it sits better with me if they’ve had some elected experience in one role or the other before doing what Lamont did.

posted by: hawkeye | August 14, 2010  1:35pm

Malloy milked state taxpayors for over $3. million dollars to win the primary with his B.S. PLENTY ADS.  Now, thanks to the Democratic General Assembly, who have already given us a $3.5 billion dollar deficit, Malloy is getting another, in excess of $3 million dollars, to finance his deceitful campaign, while he is counting his own money, all the way to the bank!
Without winning the election, Dan Malloy is already a reason for state fiscal problems. It will be political suicide, for the State of Connecticut, if Dan Malloy wins the election.  “TAX AND SPEND’ WILL HIT THE ROOF!

posted by: lothar | August 14, 2010  9:28pm

nice gop talking points hawkeye, but malloy’s record doesn’t suggest those outcomes.

posted by: hawkeye | August 15, 2010  2:33pm

Lothar: I did not suggest Malloy’s record of fiscal irresponsibility.  I spelled it out for you!

posted by: lothar | August 15, 2010  6:35pm

actually hawkeye you kind of gave a vague description of things republicans love to hate, but you didn’t really describe malloy or his record.

also, fedele used about $3 million in taxpayer dollars for his campaign as well, so it’s a fairly even system there - which is what it was designed to do in the first place. meanwhile, the foleys and mcmahons of the world - millionaires who exist as their own “special self-interest” groups - are still trying to buy elections.

I’ll take the preservation of a more level playing field over lopsided campaign spending any day. the price is worth that.

posted by: JohninHamden | August 16, 2010  5:21am

LOL.  Had the writer been out knocking on doors in blue collar districts as I was in mine, there would have been no thought of Lamont winning.  He was viewed, at the front doors, as inexperienced in government with no ideas and as a rich guy spending millions for his own ego.  In tough times, 9.1 million for a 200K job (with a house) was a bit pricy to those on fixed incomes and un- or under employed.


Also, Lamont didn’t run for Governor before so all comparisons to 2006 are invalid.  And, that year he was running “anti-the Dubbya Republican war” against someone from the conservative end of the Democratic Party who thinks Israel can do no wrong.  Easy pickin’s for a liberal in a Democratic Primary.


In tough times, people want folks with government experience who have shown they can make government work.  It was that simple at the doors.  Apparently too complex when viewed from the back room computer while reading the quinnipiac inaccuracy polls. 


Finally, poor hawkeye should place the blame for the defict where it belongs.  18 years of gutless Republican Governors who don’t know how to make a veto stick.  Well, one was in prison so he couldn’t do it.


Sorry Sonny, the 3.5 billion belongs to the Governor just as all past deficits and surpluses belonged to the Governors’ because simple minds don’t know any other way to report it without using too much space for the editor’s liking.

posted by: robn | August 16, 2010  9:08pm

Mr Lamont failed to exhibit a principled stance against the Iraq invasion which was his original hook and which (the war that is) continues to this day. Didn’t have the cajones to oppose Obama. Take a long look in the mirror progressives because he is yee.

posted by: Brian Parker | August 17, 2010  5:36am

Brian Parker

Fair disclosure: Voted for Malloy, and would have voted for Fedele.

Malloy won this in two places, imo.

1. Debates: Lamont looked nervous and “announcer-man” like. Dan look prepared and confident.

2. Negative ad push - fear was rejected as motive to vote for Lamont.

Fedele I think can be proud of the late push he made. It still baffles me that Lt Govs have such poor showings in gub-elections.