Bill Curry, two-time Democratic nominee for governor in Connecticut who twice lost to Republican John Rowland, writes “We Democrats will learn a lot about ourselves from the fates of Lamont and Ganim and Mattei and Tong. If Mattei goes down, or Ganim wins a town outside Bridgeport, it will be a sign we’re far too little invested in rooting out corruption, and also a sign of trouble looming in November.”
Many of us will learn something following Tuesday’s primary results that can be applied to the general election in November. Curry references attorney general candidate Chris Mattei, the former federal prosecutor who won a conviction of Rowland for violating federal campaign finance laws. The Bridgeport-based attorney finds himself in a lonely ballot slot on Row C by virtue of state-law alphabetical order below party-endorsed Bill Tong who has the top line and Paul Doyle on Row B.
Leading Row B is Joe Ganim in his Runyonesque challenge of party-endorsed Ned Lamont who enjoys mighty party support and campaign cash that dwarfs Ganim. Some voters snicker at Ganim’s candidate chutzpah after he regained the mayoralty in 2015 following his 2003 conviction on federal corruption charges. Ganim was among the front runners for the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial nomination. When Ganim was forced to bail on his gubernatorial run to craft a legal defense that failed, Curry filled the candidate void in 2002.
Part of Ganim’s rationale for governor is getting this out of his system. It grates him that he’d likely have been the Democratic candidate for governor in 2002. Joe’s conduct and a federal investigation torpedoed his ambition then, but not now in his ambitious world all these years later.
Once you advance beyond the rationale for running, can you put the pieces together for a winning strategy? We’ll find out tomorrow.
Campaigns are about dear ol’ MOM–money, organization and message.
Ganim is a skilled retail politician who knows how to spin free media opportunities. When you’re outspent heavily while the other guy presumably has more available boots on the ground you must mix it up to create a few breaks.
Ganim’s second-chance message resonates with some urban voters who feel cut out by their elected officials. Most electors, however, vote on the future, and Ganim has failed to chart out clearly where he’ll take the state as governor. He talks often about what he has done, without marrying that to what he’ll do. He’s offered very few policy ideas to cut through the static of a campaign to resonate with voters.
Ganim may be competitive in cities tomorrow. The larger looming question: can he sway suburban and rural voters from Lamont? Unless there’s been a major shift in the psyche of this race the past two weeks as Democratic voters focus on the primary, that should be Lamont’s sweet spot.
Winning is relative. Presuming Lamont runs up a heavy vote outside of cities what becomes a win for Ganim while losing? The ability to show his urban support is equal or better than Lamont. It provides him some relevance that Lamont–who has bristled lately at Ganim playing the wealth card–cannot totally ignore.
When Lamont was pressed by Channel 3’s Dennis House if he’d support Ganim if Ganim were victorious in the primary, he replied “probably not.” Does that mean Lamont doesn’t want Ganim’s support in the general election?
It would’a been better for Lamont to rejoinder “I look forward to Joe Ganim being a good mayor for Bridgeport for a very long time. Joe and I will sit down after the primary.” But Ganim’s repeated jabs at Lamont’s wealth while fawning the regular Joe persona unnerves Ned. Has he crossed his Rubicon “who cares whether Ganim supports me or not, I don’t need him?”
There’s no point in winning a primary only to strategically lance yourself in the general election. Lamont cannot win the general election without a sizable urban turnout against the Republican nominee who comes out of the primary. Unaffiliated voters who swing statewide races in the state are cranky about Connecticut’s future.
What Lamont communicates to the larger electorate after the primary is key while inspiring a representative turnout in urban areas he needs for a win.
As for Ganim, one thing he needs is a convincing win in Bridgeport tomorrow. Without that it could encourage a strong primary challenge against Ganim next year.