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Let The Good Himes Roll! Himes Balances Cities-Suburbs

November 12th, 2012 · 7 Comments · Analysis and Comment

Jim Himes

Jim Himes

Lowell Weicker. Stewart McKinney. Chris Shays. These moderate Republicans represented Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District for 40 consecutive years. Then Democrat Jim Himes came along in 2008 and defeated Shays in the Barack tsunami. He won reelection in 2010 and then last Tuesday bludgeoned his GOP opponent Steve Obsitnik with 60 percent of the vote. Himes won GOP-leaning Fairfield County communities Greenwich, Monroe, Trumbull, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston. This isn’t supposed to happen.

Himes has now built his own prestige and his own brand in a district that includes the wealthiest county in the wealthiest state in America, but that also includes the poor of Connecticut’s largest city. Himes has learned how to balance poverty smack up against affluence in appealing to the heavy bloc of unaffiliated voters who swing the district. Bridgeport is just minutes from the wealthiest of the wealthy in America, but for so many down-county residents commuting to Manhattan, The Port might as well be Pluto. Himes knows how to communicate with both constituencies–he resides in Greenwich–without betraying his Democratic base in Bridgeport, Stamford and Norwalk.

Himes is smart. That’s a good start. He’s likable. That helps too. He speaks Spanish, appealing to the fastest-growing demographic. His government staff provides strong constituency work in field offices. He’s not viewed as a wacky lib. His opponent Obsitnik was an attractive candidate, well spoken with a strong business and military background. His campaign raised enough dough to compete. Obsitnik, unlike most Republicans, did not campaign to repeal Obama Care, he campaigned to repair it, a nod to the eclectic nature of the district.

In challenge races, an opponent must almost always make the case for firing the incumbent. Obsitnik never got his footing to make the case. Himes’ Tuesday victory was by far the most impressive of his three election wins. Unlike 2008, Himes’ 2012 victory with Obama on the ballot wasn’t about Obama. It was about Himes.

Two years from now may be a different election challenge for Himes during the 2014 gubernatorial cycle when the turnout in Bridgeport will likely be 20 percentage points lower than a presidential year, based on voter performance the past decade. What GOP candidate will emerge against Himes? Senate Minority Leader John McKinney would figure to be a fit for the seat his late father Stewart McKinney occupied for about 17 years, but most GOP operatives say John McKinney is eyeing a gubernatorial run in 2014 when the Republican field is expected to be large against Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy.

Incumbents like Himes never stop running. There’s not a lot of room for error. Two years comes quick and if the economy is still a stinker it will be dicey for him. He gets a breather for the holidays but then the page turns into 2013 and the fundraising begins for 2014, and another GOP opponent in what is considered a swing district.

See Himes-Obsitnik election tallies here.

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7 Comments so far ↓

  • Palin Smith

    Perhaps the Republican Party should begin entering its picks in the Democrat primaries. Little difference between real Dems who pretend to be fiscally conservative and Repubs. who are social moderates. No daylight between them. When in doubt vote Dem. Perhaps it’s time for the GOP to put up candidates who don’t offer ANY doubt. Ha … that will never happen.

  • Grin Ripper

    Quit stealing my lines!

  • Bob Walsh

    Lennie,
    I attended the rally at Messiah Baptist Church the Sunday before Election Day and heard Jim speak. It was far more than communicating with the congregation. He connected with them. He spoke of a real and personal experience in an honest and genuine way.
    Jim Himes is quickly becoming a polished and formidable politician. If the Republicans don’t knock him off quickly, he will be in Washington for a very long time.

  • BlackRockGuy

    John McKinney is a far cry from his father who today would fit in better with liberal Democrats. McKinney the younger is to the right of Atilla the Hun.

  • Jim Callahan

    Himes may have already crossed the bar if he was able to line up Gold Coast towns for his reelection. Last best shot to stop him is 2014. The sixth year of an incumbent prez is usually a bad election for his party.

    Does Obsitnik have enough for another go?

    The continued antagonism of views between national Republicans and moderate Republicans, especially New England Republicans, may make it tough to bring that seat back to the Repubs. The gender problem is phenomenal. There were many women who were elective officials in Connecticut 30-40 years ago. Most were Republican. (I know, Ella was a Dem, but …) Educated women get really irate over national Republicans. That’s not a good thing in the 4th CD of Conn.

    Presumably, having a governor from Stamford running for reelection will help Himes.

    Is Linda McMahon going away? Is she still trying to help improve the political system in Connecticut–for Democrats?

  • Mojo

    *** As long as this cool money ‘burbs guy keeps most things transparent and continues with district town meetings with voters, he will be harder and harder to beat by a Republican! Let’s hope he stays humble and doesn’t forget or become out of touch with average Americans. ***

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