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Connecticut governor primaries tight; Linda McMahon coasting in Senate primary

By Aaron Blake

Connecticut is set to provide plenty of drama on primary day Tuesday, but it won't be in the restarted GOP Senate primary between Linda McMahon and former Rep. Rob Simmons, according to a new Quinnipiac poll.

The poll shows McMahon widening her lead on Simmons since last week and taking a 22-point edge into Tuesday, 50 percent to 28 percent.

The governor's race is a different story, though. There, Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy has pulled into a virtual tie with former Senate candidate Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary. Malloy, the party-endorsed candidate who has been closing slowly in recent weeks, now trails just 45 percent to 42 percent.

The GOP primary for governor has also been getting tighter. The poll shows former Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley leading Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele 38 percent to 30 percent. Foley led the race by 35 points last month and 15 points last week. Fedele's campaign released a poll over the weekend showing their candidate taking a lead.

But even if Foley's eight-point margin is accurate, views on the race are very malleable, and the closing hours of the campaign will be vital. Fully, 47 percent of voters who chose either candidate in the head-to-head ballot test say they might change their mind.

That's far higher than it is in the GOP Senate primary (30 percent) or the Democratic governor primary (30 percent).

Fedele still remains unknown to 29 percent of voters, and he maintains slightly better favorability numbers than Foley. A late advertising push from the Fedele campaign has pushed Foley's unfavorable number to 34 percent, but he's still in positive territory at 45 percent favorable.

Lamont and Malloy's numbers are pretty similar too. Lamont is viewed favorably by 62 percent of voters and unfavorably by 23 percent. Malloy is at 57 and 20, respectively.

"The poll reflects what we're seeing and hearing every day on the campaign trail: Dan's got the momentum," Malloy campaign manager Dan Kelly said.

McMahon has better numbers than Simmons. Both are viewed unfavorably by just more than a quarter of voters, but McMahon's favorability is 64 percent, while Simmons's is 50.

With McMahon's numbers and the $20 million she has spent on the race, a late surge from Simmons just didn't seem to be in the cards when he got back in the race in recent weeks. The presence of investment banker Peter Schiff and the 15 percent of the vote he is taking appear to make it impossible for Simmons to win.

At this point, Simmons needs, as Quinnipiac pollster Doug Schwartz puts it, "a miracle."

Some wondered if that miracle might come, after the decision in recent days by McMahon's husband, WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, to do a national interview defending their business. For a campaign confident of victory, it seemed odd to be trotting out a potentially explosive surrogate.

(Of course, this is the campaign which took the unusual step of claiming credit for a New York Times story about Democratic candidate Richard Blumenthal's misstatements of his Vietnam record. So it could just be a symptom of an unorthodox campaign.)

Instead, McMahon's people seem to be leaving nothing to chance in the primary. In a statement on the poll, they continued to hammer away at Simmons as a "liberal" and Schiff as a political opportunist.

"Connecticut voters are ready for something different," McMahon spokesman Ed Patru said, "and over the next 36 hours, we will be focused on ensuring that Republican voters turn out and make their support for Linda heard at the ballot box."

By Aaron Blake  |  August 9, 2010; 9:46 AM ET
Categories:  Governors , Senate  
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