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OP-ED | Will Obama’s Sagging Popularity Impact the CT Senate Race?

by | Sep 17, 2011 8:55am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Opinion

For the second time in two years, change is coming to the Land of Steady Habits. With U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman retiring, the race to succeed him in the U.S. Senate is already in full swing in Connecticut. But while a Senate race is always a high profile affair, it will be overshadowed by the Presidential contest on the ballot above it. Though the major political parties will not nominate their standard-bearers until August 2012, recent polling and the sagging popularity of the President may make the Senate race more competitive than conventional wisdom suggests.

U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy represents Connecticut’s Fifth District in Congress and polled ten points ahead of his next-nearest challenger for the Democratic Senate nomination, former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz.  According to the Quinnipiac University poll released on Friday, Mr. Murphy holds a ten-point lead over Bysiewicz.

Quinnipiac further found that Ms. Bysiewicz is viewed unfavorably by 27 percent of the electorate compared to a 16 percent unfavorable rate for Murphy. The gap between the two among unaffiliated voters is even more striking with the Murphy seen unfavorably by 16 percent of respondents compared to 27 percent for Bysiewicz. But a closer look reveals the cause – voters don’t know Murphy as well. Once the campaigns really heat up, the contest between Murphy and Bysiewicz, not to mention state Rep. William Tong, could heat up in a hurry.

Linda McMahon, who ran for the Senate in 2010, begins the race for the Republican Senate nod with a 15-point lead, 50 percent to 35 percent, over former Congressman Christopher Shays. McMahon, however, also starts with some baggage – a 38 percent – 45 percent favorable/unfavorable rate despite the fact that the campaign hasn’t started yet. Shays, on the other hand, remains popular with voters despite having been out of state for the last few years with a 41 percent favorable rate and just 14 percent holding an unfavorable view.

While the August primaries will settle intraparty differences, the full impact of President Obama on the Senate race will be felt in the general election. President Barack Obama’s approval numbers have steadily declined since he took office from a high of 71 percent in April 2009 to his current all-time low of 48 percent approve, 48 percent disapprove.

If these numbers discourage fellow Democrats, it could set the stage for a stark turnaround from 2008 when Obama’s presence on the ticket created an enormous wave of enthusiasm for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot. The Republican wave that swept the country in 2010 wasn’t enough to propel Linda McMahon into the U.S. Senate against the ever-popular Richard Blumenthal, but McMahon or Shays taking on the lesser-known Murphy, Bysiewicz or Tong with a weakened President on the top of the ticket may well be a different story.

Heath W. Fahle is the Policy Director of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy and a former Executive Director of the Connecticut Republican Party. Contact Heath about this article by visiting www.heathwfahle.com

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(12) Archived Comments

posted by: SocialButterfly | September 17, 2011  2:48pm

Chris Murphy—“as an obedient-Obama-disciple”—is definately vulnerable to lose his seat.

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | September 17, 2011  5:05pm


The best matchup for the GOP is Shays.?

The one person the GOP won’t nominate? Shays! The Neo-Democrat from Maryland.

posted by: Todd Peterson | September 17, 2011  10:18pm

Always nice to read what Heath has to say here…

As to Linda McMahon; I can’t see her winning a Senate race.  Although the Obama administration is starting to really fray around the edges and poll numbers are tanking, Linda McMahon has too many negatives.  She’s a woman who a majority of women don’t like. 

Last time around she bombareded us with media to the point that she turned people off.  She could overpay as many party pros as she could find but there just wasn’t enough support on the ground for her.
I think this will be another $50 million exercise in tilting at windmills.

If she wants to do something for Republicans then she could quietly support conservatives running for state and congressional offices and contribute to Tom Scott’s new venture which is supposed to help get grass roots activism converted to real political clout.

posted by: saramerica | September 18, 2011  9:20am


That really depends on who’s on the top of the ticket for the GOP, doesn’t it? If the GOP has Rick Perry at the top of the ticket, I think you’ll see discontented independents and Democrats returning to Obama in droves. My two cents, which according to some CTNJ readers, worth .0000000000005. :P

posted by: gutbomb86 | September 18, 2011  10:52am


@saramerica - couldn’t agree with you more. it’s really early and no one but the extremists and political professionals are paying attention. Come election day, independents and democrats who go to the polls are going to have a hard time voting for another “cowboy” over Obama, particularly Perry, who has made some ridiculous statements.

posted by: AndersonScooper | September 18, 2011  11:30am

Of course if Obama is seen to be at risk of losing it will only rally and boost Democratic turnout.

Why not write instead about how lame the CT GOP is to only be able to come up with the two re-treads for US Senate? But perhaps most other Republicans know that trying to win in CT, during a Presidential cycle, becomes a fool’s errand.

Viva McMahon!
Viva Shays!

posted by: Paul Passarelli | September 18, 2011  11:35am

I just want to point out that there is a Libertarian alternative to the Dems or the GOP.  Neither major party has served the State or the Nation, but has chosen the Party over the people. 

My goal is to serve in DC for a short time and reinvigorate adherence to the Constitution, after all, we are the Constitution State!

Let’s not elect a Senator that will be a tool of the Party or is out of touch with life in the Nutmeg State, or is simply looking to further their political career.

There are options. Visit http://Passarelli4Senate.com/ for more info.

Libertarian: Less Government. More Freedom.

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | September 18, 2011  1:18pm


I’d like to see Brian K. Hill get more pimping from the GOP Party. Hill is what the party needs in CT. Black, ex-military, youngish (age 41) and he can think on his feet without notes and tiresome jargon which is truly unlike the recent batch of GOP candidate capitalist drones.


This would be such a radical and successful move by the CT GOP. The moderate right actually needs to invigorate the party and save it from itself.

I think Wilson-Foley and Hill are the people the CT GOP needs to move forward.

And yes, Wilson-Foley is a country club Republican but she does manage a number of smaller businesses and can speak to that quite well.

posted by: ... | September 18, 2011  3:33pm


If the fight in the Senate has the possibility of being close or undecided for the state of CT, the 5th District (on the chance Murphy wins the Primary) could very well be a total tossup to whomever is running in the general election.

Of course that depends on the intensity/popularity factors of each candidate, but more importantly, the economic landscape of the district, the state, and our country roughly one year from now.

posted by: saramerica | September 18, 2011  10:54pm


Interesting quote from Time magazine interview w/Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings (himself a Mormon), when asked how he was going to vote: “I’m a ‘hold your nose’ Obama voter. I think we’re going to be a big part of his constituency in 2012.” I agree, and it’s why I don’t think GOP should get too excited by his low poll ratings, particularly with all the Republican candidates racing to see who can out conservative each other. It might be red meat for the Tea Party and the base but it’s a big turn off to the thoughtful middle.

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | September 19, 2011  11:01am


Sarah, expect Obama’s poll numbers to drop again today after his $3 trillion deficit reduction proposal is rejected.

It boils down to $1.75 trillion in future war, military pension, and military interest payment savings, allowing the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy to expire for revenue, some sort of millionaire tax and the always popular Medicaid and Medicare changes.

As near as I can tell he’s talking about no more than $100 billion in savings in the next two years $300 billion in tax increases and it will all go to fund the Jobs Bill making deficit reduction over the next two years a chimera.

We’ll go into January with Romney the leader.

posted by: SocialButterfly | September 19, 2011  2:50pm

My response to saramerica, which was civil and objective—was not published?

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