As voters head to the polls, Visconti's effect on governor's race is unclear

Petitioning candidate Joe Visconti's belated withdrawal from Connecticut's governor's race may or may not tilt the election in fellow Republican Tom Foley's direction.

We may never know.

A new Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed that with Visconti out of the race, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had moved three percentage points ahead of Foley - 47 percent to 44 percent, with 7 percent undecided. But most of the polling that yielded the results took place before Visconti's announcement Sunday that he was bowing out.

"Contrary to conventional wisdom, independent candidate Joe Visconti's last minute exit … doesn't look like it will help Republican Tom Foley," Douglas Schwartz, the Quinnipiac poll's director, said.

Neither Visconti nor the Foley campaign was buying that Monday.

Visconti, the West Hartford builder who secured a place on Election Day ballots by collecting more than 10,000 signatures, predicted his withdrawal from the race and his endorsement of Foley will carry Foley to a comfortable win in today's balloting.

"I represented a split in the gun movement," Visconti said, referring to his campaign promise to actively seek repeal of the state's gun-control law, including its ban on large-capacity magazines and its expanded definition of assault weapons. Foley has adopted a more moderate stance, saying that as governor he would sign a repeal measure if one reached his desk.

"That's all solidified now," Visconti said.

The Malloy campaign said Visconti's announcement Sunday was a sign that "Tom Foley just doubled down on his plans to repeal Connecticut's strict smart gun law … Make no mistake, Tom Foley is in the pocket of the right wing extreme gun lobby …"

Visconti's announcement did not constitute an "official" withdrawal from the race, according to the secretary of the state's office.

"His name will remain on the ballot and any votes cast for him for governor will be counted for him," Av Harris, a spokesman for the office, said. "We are informing all registrars of voters in Connecticut to leave the ballots as they are with no changes before Election Day."

Visconti said he had "suspended" his campaign. He noted that Monday's Quinnipiac poll showed he would get 8 percent of the vote were he still in the race, with Malloy getting 43 percent, Foley 42 percent and 6 percent undecided.

"I don't care what the poll said, we know we were at 10 or 11," Visconti said. "But we stopped asking people to vote for me and started asking them to vote for Foley."

Visconti said his campaign had increased voter interest in the race.

"By endorsing Tom, it's a get-out-the-vote move," he said. "That's what the president was doing for Malloy yesterday (at a rally in Bridgeport). This was the decision I made Saturday. I believe we can give the edge and the spark to Tom."

In Monday's Quinnipiac poll, Malloy's favorability rating improved slightly over the previous Quinnipiac poll five days earlier, with 43 percent saying they had a favorable opinion of him and 49 percent saying they had a negative opinion of him. Forty-two percent said they had a favorable opinion of Foley while 44 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of him.

Foley's campaign bus traveled Monday to Middletown, Vernon, Norwich and New London before heading to Windsor Locks, where New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was to appear in the state with Foley for a fifth time.

Heather Somers, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, stood in for Foley, who was not on the bus when it pulled into New London, making stops at an office building at 88 Howard St. and at Hot Rod Café on Bank Street. Republican candidates for other state offices also rode the bus.

"The momentum of this campaign is amazing," Somers told supporters at 88 Howard St. "We're seeing so much support all over the state. In Bridgeport and Waterbury, I was really overwhelmed."

She said that in Waterbury more than 200 Democrats came out to show support for the Republican ticket.

Malloy's election eve schedule called for him to attend events in West Hartford, New Haven and Stamford.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

Twitter: @bjhallenbeck

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2014 Election Guide

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