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Poll finds Lamont, Blumenthal with big leads in Connecticut

 Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont delivers the 2022 State of the State on Feb. 9, 2022.
CT-N screenshot
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Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont delivers the 2022 State of the State on Feb. 9, 2022.

As he seeks a second term, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont is leading the race against Republican challenger Bob Stefanowski. That’s according to a new Quinnipiac University poll, which finds Lamont ahead 57-to-40 percent among likely voters. The poll finds just 15 percent of voters might change their minds before November’s election. Fellow Democrat Richard Blumenthal, the incumbent, is leading the race for U.S. Senate by the same margin. For analysis, poll director Doug Schwartz spoke with WAMC's Ian Pickus.

This is the first poll that you have done on the Connecticut race in this cycle. What sticks out to you?

Just how big the leads are for both incumbent Democrats 17 point leads for both Lamont and Blumenthal, that's going to be a tough hurdle for both of their challengers. Stefanowski, who's now in a rematch from 2018. He ran a close race last time, but right now it's not looking close. And, you know, on the on the Senate side, we've got a candidate who's unknown to many voters and Leora Levy, more than 4 in 10 say they haven't heard enough about her going up against a popular incumbent and Richard Blumenthal has been in Connecticut office for decades.

Now, the last time in 2018, when Lamont and Stefanowski faced off that was a 3-point finish for Lamont. What is Lamont running on as he goes for a second term?

Really just on his record and people in Connecticut, they tell us that they're happy with his record, he has a strong approval rating of 58% approve, 36% disapprove. So, it's really tough for any challenger to overcome an incumbent who has that kind of popularity.

Now, we know nationally speaking, Republicans are expecting a big year, and it seems more likely than not that they'll control the House after the midterms. Do you expect any of those dynamics to come into play in the more blue Connecticut?

Yeah, that's an interesting question. You never know how some of these other races, let's say for Congress could have an impact on let's say, US Senate, or gubernatorial race. You know, turnout is the kind of thing that's very difficult for pollsters to predict. So, I wouldn't, you know, venture how any particular race, but you're right. This is going to be a very consequential midterm election. And, you know, I guess when you look at the last several months it looks really bad for the Democrats in the House, that historically the out party, you know, suffers big losses. But, you know, the more current polling that I've seen is showing that, yes, the Democrats are still more likely than not to lose the house, but by not as big of a margin as was earlier expected.

Tell us about Bob Stefanowski a bit for people who haven't closely paid attention to this race in Connecticut. He's the Republican running for governor. What's his story?

So, he's a businessman from Madison, Connecticut, and this is his second run at governor. He has not held public office before so he still is actually facing a hurdle of name recognition. So, he ran in 2018 but still, a quarter of Connecticut voters say they haven't heard enough about him to form an opinion. In 2018, he ran on eliminating the state income tax. He's not running on that this time around. However, he is proposing to reduce taxes.

Now Connecticut does have a history of having Republican governors, you don't have to go too far back to Jodi Rell. Is this a state where a Republican could still win statewide?

Yeah, I think that it's possible. As you said, Jodi Rell was the last Republican to win statewide John Rowland before her. There was also Lowell Weicker who was the last Republican to win for US Senate back in 1982. So, it's possible but they tend to be the more moderate Weicker, Rell Republicans that win statewide and someone like Leora Levy, who's running for Senate and has been endorsed by Donald Trump probably is going to have a tougher time in very blue Connecticut.

And we know Trump has a long history with Democratic Senator Blumenthal. Is he expected to play a big role in this race?

You know, I haven't heard anything about Trump coming to Connecticut. He did endorse levy on the eve of her primary victory and there was sort of talk that if a more moderate Republican had won the Senate nomination, it could have been a closer battle for Senate, but with Leora Levy, who, as I said earlier, is unknown to more than 4 in 10 voters going up against a popular Blumenthal who has a 56% approval rating. It's looking really tough for the Republicans.

And we should say your poll found that both Lamont and Blumenthal are pulling well ahead of President Biden among Connecticut voters, right?

Yeah, that's interesting, because you know, one of the thoughts was, well, maybe President Biden would be a drag, and he is less popular than Lamont and Blumenthal. But he does get us, Biden, gets a split 48/48 job approval. You know, it's not great, given that Connecticut is so Democrat, you would have thought maybe he'd be better but it is better than numbers we've seen in swing states and nationally where the President has been underwater for a while. Although, his numbers have improved over the last couple of months, since the Supreme Court decision reversing Roe v. Wade, since gas prices have come down, he's passed some legislation. We've seen in our national poll that his job approval rating is up nine points.

It's so interesting. I've been checking in on the Quinnipiac poll for years now and, is it possible for a president in your view to get back to a high above water approval rating? Because Trump was consistently getting to all-time lows in your poll and then, you know, Biden won and ousted Trump, but he hasn't fared much better in the Quinnipiac poll.

You're right. I mean, Joe Biden did start off with a positive approval rating. But once he got underwater, he was down for quite a while and only recently have we seen some significant improvement. You know, he is double digits negative. So, it's going to be tough to get above water. I wouldn't rule it out. If the economy comes back strong, it's possible that Joe Biden's numbers could come back up.

And what were some of the key issues that voters reported in this poll?

It is the pocketbook issues, the number one most urgent issue that Connecticut voters say is facing the state is inflation, followed by taxes. There's an interesting party divide. Republicans overwhelmingly cite inflation and taxes. And while Democrats do cite inflation as number one, they also cite a number of other issues near the top. Health care, climate change, and abortion.

And in terms of the makeup of the rest of the state offices, are we expecting Democrats to control pretty much everything going into the next legislative year?

You know, we didn't pull on any other races besides the governor and Senate race, but, again, given the big registration advantage that Democrats have in the state, they have held the legislature as well as other state constitutional offices. You know, the odds are that they're going to do very well again, but I couldn't predict each of the races.

And then one more thing. He's not on the ballot this year but what are voters thinking about the other democratic US Senator from Connecticut, Chris Murphy?

Murphy also enjoys a strong approval rating. 54% of Connecticut voters approve, 35% disapprove.

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.
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