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Tom and Dan, off the line

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published August 22. 2014 4:00AM

I must say I am happy for the return of campaigning Dan Malloy, who seems much more likable than the governing Dannel Malloy.

After winning the 2010 election for governor, Malloy seemed to seal away the more genial and more off-the-cuff Dan in a box, telling reporters he preferred Dannel, the more formal name his mother was fond of.

Henceforth, it was Gov. Dannel. Indeed, he's been a buttoned-down governor, often testy with opponents, much more Dannel than Dan.

I remember the series of town hall meetings in which he defended his first budget, with its largest tax increase in state history. (Yes, Lowell Weicker's imposition of an income tax was actually larger, if you adjust for inflation.)

Those town forums weren't pretty, with Gov. Dannel in a sometimes snippy, defensive crouch.

Now, four years later, here we are at the outset of the gubernatorial rematch between Dan Malloy and Tom Foley, and you can see both men grasping for their most likable selves.

In one of the first commercials of the new campaign season, Foley got re-introduced to voters by his wife, who naturally likes him and who confided that he's good at fixing things.

This is the ad in which we learned we shouldn't be surprised to see Tom under the hood of a car, not a common sight in his mansion-rich neighborhood in Greenwich. He likes fixing things in general, his wife says in the ad, as we are presumably to imagine him fixing what's wrong with Connecticut.

So you can see why the governor, not wanting to seem less likable and less a regular guy than the under-the-hood venture capitalist from Greenwich, became Dan again.

Last week, Dan entertained a group of reporters by trying on some jeans at a clothing store, reporting that the pants with a 33-inch waist were a bit big. Seems like thinner Dan has been on the Dick Blumenthal diet.

It is too bad Dan slimmed down, Tom Foley might say, while his government didn't.

I have seen Foley in jeans on the campaign trail, but I doubt we will see him actually trying some on.

Dan beats Tom so far when it comes to likable invited guests to the campaign trail.

There's no polling on it, but I think Connecticut voters would vote in big numbers to have a beer with Dan's special fundraising visitor this week, Vice President Joe Biden, but not so many would cross the street to meet with Foley's national campaign guest, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Tom Foley was at least gracious in saying this week he welcomed the appearance by Biden, suggesting a visit by a vice president is always good for the state.

Malloy, on the other hand, was more Dannel than Dan back when Foley hosted a Christie visit, practically snarling at the visiting New Jersey governor.

I was reviewing recently some of the news coverage from the period before the last election and came across an interview in which a relaxed, soon-to-announce candidate Dan took aim at the lackluster performance of the administration of Republican Gov. Jodi Rell, then in office.

"The reality is that since 1990 we are dead last in Connecticut for job growth," Dan Malloy said in the 2009 interview. "Connecticut electric rates are entirely too high ... the most expensive in the nation.

"It's one of the reasons manufacturers bailed out of Connecticut more rapidly and more seriously than elsewhere. This governor and this administration has failed us in many ways."

You can find a variable of that very same message in one of Tom Foley's latest commercials, one in which Foley again appears looking likable and this time fatherly, with his kids.

The new Tom Foley ad attacking Malloy could have quoted 2009 Dan himself, attacking an incumbent governor.

It seems the more things change the more they stay the same here in the land of steady habits. Even the economic decline is steady and nonpartisan, like it or not.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

Twitter: @DavidCollinsct

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