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2014 might look better for Malloy

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published 12/15/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 12/14/2013 11:03 PM

Even as 2013 winds down, the next big statewide race in Connecticut, for governor, still seems far off.

And yet, as the temperature was falling outside last week, you could almost feel a new chill fall over all the Connecticut Republicans with ambitions to succeed Gov. Dannel Malloy.

Malloy, even as he has been busy burnishing his pro-union credentials, supporting nurses in their nasty standoff with the administration at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, certainly faces a lot of challenges.

If he stands for re-election, as everyone expects, Malloy is going to have to answer complaints about the lackluster state budget numbers and his own bag of gimmicks used to make the state finances look less dire.

Employment numbers are not going to be anything to brag about by the time the first gubernatorial debates roll around, and the governor will have to defend all his economic giveaways that didn't seem to result in new jobs. And then, of course, there is the state's biggest tax increase ever that will need defending.

Still, the changing political winds nationally may soon be at the governor's back.

One couldn't help but wonder, as House Speaker John Boehner completed his angry pivot last week away from Tea Party zealots and their legislative intransigence, where that leaves Connecticut GOP hopefuls.

To a person, all the gubernatorial candidates in Connecticut sided with the Washington shutdown strategy that turned out to be so unpopular across the country.

Now that the GOP grownups in Washington are waking up and rejecting the no-compromise politics of government inertia, Connecticut GOP gubernatorial candidates are left with a tough record of having supported an unsuccessful shutdown strategy aimed at stopping Obamacare.

Even former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said last week that the party is going to have to start winning some more elections before it can continue making unreasonable demands.

Curiously, in solidly blue Connecticut, the Obamacare rollout has been pretty successful, and it's hard to think that the thousands who have signed up here, or who know friends or family who have, will support a gubernatorial candidate who endorsed shutting down the federal government to stop people from acquiring new affordable health care plans. In any case, it's their record now.

One might expect, now that divide among establishment and renegade Republicans is starting to open in Washington, that Connecticut Republicans might already begin to hedge.

But don't look for that sprint to the center until after the GOP gubernatorial primary, and by then it may well be too late or too obviously cynical.

As the country appears to be drifting more to the left, with a very liberal new mayor in New York City, who won talking about the great divide in wealth and income, and Democrats increasingly embracing issues like a higher minimum wage and the progressive anti-Wall Street message of Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, where does that leave conservative Republicans in old blue Connecticut?

At a time when Republicans nationally are divided and on the run, it must look to Gov. Malloy like a rosier new year in Connecticut is about to dawn.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

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