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OP-ED | Obama Visit a Political Bonanza for Malloy

by Susan Bigelow | Mar 7, 2014 9:24am
(13) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Economics, Election 2014, Labor, Opinion, New Britain

Hugh McQuaid

President Obama Speaks in New Britain

The traveling circus that is a visit from the President of the United States arrived in town this week, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy got to play the ringleader. It’s nice work, if you can get it, and it was the highlight of one of the better political weeks the governor has had.

Malloy, fresh off his extremely beneficial public spat with Gov. Bobby Jindal, started the week off with mixed but not necessarily horrible news from a Quinnipiac Poll. The headline was that he’s tied with Tom Foley (still), but that’s hardly a surprise. The real bad news is that Foley still far outpaces all his Republican rivals, meaning there probably won’t be a close-fought, messy, distracting primary in which someone like Mark Boughton does all of Malloy’s work for him for a few months.

The good news is that people really like the idea of raising the minimum wage, which was what Malloy had fought with Jindal over last week, and what had brought President Obama to New Britain on Wednesday. Some 71 percent supported raising the wage, and 48 percent said doing so would help the economy as opposed to 27 percent who said it would hurt. Malloy led a contingent of New England governors (absent Maine and New Hampshire) who backed the president’s call for a hike in the minimum wage at what looked and felt like a campaign rally at CCSU in New Britain.

The really good news was a presidential visit that produced plenty of photo ops of the president eating at Café Beauregard in downtown New Britain, a new restaurant that pays its four workers above the minimum wage, and no negative stories of traffic tie-ups, protests, or other nightmares. There were some traffic issues, sure, and there were a few protestors, but the whole thing looked more like a rolling party than a political event.

The politics of presidential visits are always a little risky, since there’s always the chance that the country or your state is about to turn against the commander-in-chief, leading to plenty of grainy photos of the governor and the president on opposition direct mail pieces. Gov. M. Jodi Rell was well aware of this, and tended to avoid George W. Bush whenever he came back to the state of his birth. Obama’s on the downslide these days around here, believe it or not. Malloy’s approval rating was actually higher than Obama’s for the first time ever, though you wouldn’t know it from the enthusiastic reception the president received downtown and from the students at CCSU.

The chances of a federal minimum wage hike are slim at best. The House isn’t about to go for it, especially after a damning CBO report suggested that up to 500,000 jobs would vanish should the president get his way. No amount of feel-good romping around a liberal northeastern state is going to change their minds.

So what was he doing here?

In part, he was showing his appreciation for Malloy’s willingness to step up to the plate on this issue, and in part he was trying to paint the Republicans as out-of-touch for opposing a wage hike that huge majorities of Americans favor on the friendliest possible turf. Obama was also here to generate enthusiasm, which in political speak means getting people so excited that they donate money to your campaign or party.

What Malloy is hoping is that the president had such a good time that he comes back in late October. A surge of voters generated by Obama’s visit to Bridgeport helped carry Malloy over the top in 2010, and if this race is anything near as close as that one was he’ll need all the help he can get. Malloy also wanted to be seen as the standard-bearer for the popular minimum wage increase. Tom Foley may have taken some of the wind out of his sails by agreeing that the minimum wage should be raised, but it’s still Malloy’s issue.

All of this leaves the governor in decent, if somewhat precarious, position for what was always going to be a tough re-election year. His numbers, as a follow-up poll released Thursday said, are still terrible in some key areas. Only 33 percent think he’s doing a good job on the economy, which is by far the voters’ top priority. He also scored poorly on taxes and the budget.

However, because with this governor there’s usually a silver lining somewhere, he scored well on his handling of snowstorms. We’ll see if anyone remembers when the fall comes around.

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

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(13) Comments

posted by: StanMuzyk | March 7, 2014  4:36pm

Susan:  Don’t count this as a political bonanza for Gov. Malloy yet - even though that was the actual purpose for Pres, Obama’s ploy in a wage-increase to smokescreen his failure to provide 10 million jobs.  A wage increase is a moot point if there are no jobs.
This was a “careless with the truth fishing expedition to get votes for our governor”—who has been dragging his feet with his job performance results.

posted by: Dean2030 | March 7, 2014  10:07pm

Susan,
The wage will not make a difference.  Malloy still has Stephan Pryor and the corrupt corporate education reform movement under his belt.  He still has record tax increases.  He gave the tax money to the poor with expanded work credits and the rich with corporate welfare programs leaving many middle class residents to foot the bill.  He made thousands of law abiding citizens felons with his new gun laws.  His Department of Transportation is introducing a bill to make drivers take driver’s tests again when they renew their licenses because it makes driving safer (meaning test fees help make money).  His new Education Cost Sharing formula only allows state money for spending on new programs which does not allow towns to fill budget holes causing towns to raise taxes.  He has helped to cripple Freedom of Information watchdogs to get away with his transgressions.  He has cut funding to hospitals leading to increased layoffs, lower services, and harsher working conditions for hospital employees (middle class workers).  What I am trying to say is, he has no chance.

posted by: Dean2030 | March 7, 2014  10:19pm

Susan,
Malloy has offended the teachers with his support of Stefan Pryor and the corrupt education reform movement.  He has taken money from the hard working middle class through tax increases to give to the poor “democratic voters” and the billionaire Stamford Hedge Fund friends.  He has changed the education cost sharing formula with towns to only apply to new programs which denies towns the opportunities to fill budget holes and causes them to raise local taxes.  He has crippled the Freedom of Information watchdogs which hold government accountable.  He has made thousands of CT citizens felons with his new gun laws.  His Dept. of Transportation wants to require drivers to take tests when the renew the licenses to make driving safer (in other words make money of testing fees). And his obscene overuse of the words “uh” and “um” during winter storm press conferences have made the long winter worse for everyone.  He has no chance.

posted by: dano860 | March 8, 2014  8:12am

Dean, excellent facts, let us not forget the wage cuts he gave to all by virtue of the largest tax increase in Ct history.
The unearned tax credits and the “,bonus,” payments our well paid State employees receive are two areas that need addressing and modification. Those bonus payments may have been applicable 30 years ago but not today.
As most Democrats up for reelection are avoiding Barry I believe Dannel has high hopes of being “,called up,” to the big league by him and not worrying about our demise or his horrible record in the State.
He’s a great water boy.

posted by: StanMuzyk | March 8, 2014  12:50pm

Dean 2030:You wrote an intelligent viewpoint—but as long as Malloy owns the taxpayer paid social benefits vote—he will be hard to remove from the governor’s chair.  It’s unfortunate that Obama Democratic welfare prosperity rules this state—which overrides the voters who pay the taxes.  The sad predicable outcome at the polls is keeping our state and country on the verge of bankruptcy.  Tom Foley should have a 20 point lead on Malloy in the Quinnipiac poll—but being tied with Malloy has to leave our voting bloc “as suspect fair rationale voters—by far.”

posted by: Art Vandelay | March 8, 2014  10:59pm

Susan,
I have to honestly agree with both you and StanMuzyk.  Barring some unforeseen event, Malloy will win hands down come November.
The Republicans are in a shambles with no viable candidate. The Democrats have the Union & urban votes in their pocket.  The “Gun Nuts” and CEA members are only a small fraction of the overwhelming Democrat majority in this state who will never reverse their vote.  Sad part is Connectiut will be the next Detroit within 20 years.

posted by: Art Vandelay | March 9, 2014  9:45am

At last check I have yet to see any “Suggestion Boxes” in any state building.  Shared Sacrifice?  Really!

posted by: StillRevolting | March 9, 2014  10:36am

I guess I’m having a hard time understanding the mindset of the Connecticut electorate. The Republican’s don’t have their act together and their message is terrible both here and nationwide. But, here’s the thing. A successful economy will help everyone and ours is the worst in the country by a ton of different measures. The most glaring is being the only state to generate negative GDP in both 2011 and 2012. Much of that dynamic is directly attributable to the big government actions of the Progressives and the resulting unwillingness of anyone to start or expand business here. When the economy is rolling along as it should, opportunity for everyone increases. When we continually try to legislate fairness, we might be able to provide some temporary relief to some who are struggling which is nice. What we haven’t done is provide the opportunity to actually succeed because we haven’t created those opportunities through a successful economy which is really the only way to do it. So, while the Progressives have talked a good game, all they have really done is pull the middle-class closer to the bottom without actually helping the bottom advance at all. The Progressives are doing a great job of proving that government is not the answer. If the electorate ever actually wakes up to what is going on around them, Malloy doesn’t have a chance. Meanwhile, I’m stuck with the bill for all this failure and, I’m sick of it. “It’s the economy, stupid” Get rid of the Progressives, get government out of the way, and watch the economy and our collective lot get better.

posted by: StanMuzyk | March 9, 2014  9:31pm

Art:  I agree with your political savvy and your prediction that Connecticut will be the next Detroit—but I don’t think it will take 20 years of state Democratic prosperity to fall into that pitfall. It appears it will happen sooner than you estimate—“but the writing is on the wall.”

posted by: Lawrence | March 9, 2014  10:01pm

Still Revolting, the only thing standing between you and complete corporate enslavement of the American public is “progressives.” So give thanks in your prayers tonight.

Doubt me? Check out CBIA’s testimony on any insurance bill in the past 5 years. Corporate America—which is the reason why there is a rapidly disappearing middle class in America—does not give a darn about you and your family.

posted by: dano860 | March 9, 2014  11:00pm

In our sportsman’s club the, membership is quite evenly split by party but I get the feeling all agree that the Gov. is not the man for them.
The State is full of Democrat “gun nuts” that will not be voting for Dannel.
This election I’ll go to the one that placates the 6000 city voters the best once again.

posted by: justsayin | March 10, 2014  10:09am

Lawrence, one could say the only thing standing between us and socialism is capitalism. History will tell you this statement is much more accurate then claiming (boring) greed of insurance companies.

posted by: Yankees | March 10, 2014  10:50am

I agree with you Lawrence.  Conservatives are always crying wolf.  The sky is falling.  Have they noticed that with the smallest percentage of workers unionized in our history and the minimum wage the lowest in relative dollars in US history the middle class and working class is getting destroyed.  CEO ‘s and corporations have never been wealthier but yet that’s not enough.  Consertives preach religion but don’t practice it.  Try listening to Pope Frances.