Why doesn't Ned Lamont look into the camera?

I noticed recently a new online ad for Ned Lamont's gubernatorial campaign in which the candidate promises to "talk straight, look people in the eye ..."

I found this curious, having just heard a friend complain that her mother-in-law couldn't vote for the Democratic nominee because he doesn't look into the camera in his advertisements.

I should say up front here that I don't have a problem voting for someone who doesn't seem to look you in the eye, indeed who has to actually promise to do so. I also think he has bigger failings as a candidate in his ability to relate to voters than making good eye contact.

After all, the only other major party candidate in the race is a Donald Trump supporter whose last job was running a payday loan sharking business — such a hideous enterprise, it's not even legal in Connecticut.

All I can see, when I look at Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski, is the cartoonish image of him from another Republican's ad during the primary race for governor. The ad calls him "Payday Bob" and shows him, cigarette dangling out of the side of his mouth, like a predator in front of a storefront loan shop.

And he is looking into the camera, squinting a bit because of smoke from the cigarette.

The Lamont ad my friend's mother-in-law hated shows the candidate drinking coffee in a diner — all the rich self-funding candidates running in Connecticut like to look like regular folk — and he does indeed look vaguely off into the distance, not into the camera.

I noticed some of the readers commenting on a story about the release of the ad also noted that the candidate wasn't looking into the camera.

In another ad, candidate Lamont is driving a car, and so some of the time he is, naturally enough, looking at the road. But when he looks over toward the passenger side of the car, where the camera is, he seems to glance into the backseat instead.

This is the ad in which he promises to not take a salary or use a government car. This, it seems, also is made to make him look like regular folk but, really, how many people can afford to work for free?

Another good example of Lamont's not looking into the camera was in a primary debate with Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim. Maybe Lamont was making eye contact with people all around the auditorium but he wasn't with the ones at home.

Ganim may be a felon but he is a natural politician and he knew, when making his closing debate statement, to look directly into the camera and address the much larger television audience.

It doesn't strike me that the third candidate on the ballot in November, petitioner Oz Griebel, has the makings of a mainstream candidate who can win. That would be a long climb from the 4 percent support he got in a first round of polling.

That leaves to Lamont the job of keeping Payday Bob out of the governor's mansion.

It shouldn't be that hard, given that Stefanowski is supporting a president whose policies harm Connecticut residents, from the air they breathe and the rising seas along the state's shoreline to the local and state taxes they no longer will be able to deduct from their federal returns.

Anyone who believes Payday Bob's preposterous promise to eliminate the state income tax in eight years probably also believed Donald Trump when he said he was going to get Mexico to pay for his border wall.

And, honestly, does anyone really think a majority of Connecticut residents would vote for a candidate who got caught socializing at a party with a leader of the white nationalist movement as well as a subject in the Robert Mueller investigation into Russian attacks on our democracy?

I have more faith in the good people of Connecticut.

Still, I wish Lamont would stop playing everyman and admit he's a product of a very rich family. Own it. It makes his desire for public service even more commendable.

I don't even care whether or not he learns to look directly into the camera.

But I would like him to be more specific about exactly how he plans to turn the state around.

There are some good ideas, though painful, floating out there, and he needs to embrace some of them in a meaningful way. He would like to cut property tax, legalize marijuana and tax it and start collecting truck tolls.

That's all fine but it is not reassuring, given the tsunami of red ink washing toward our shores.

A full plan, even one with pain disclosed, would beat the election-season fantasy being pitched by Payday Bob.

Of course it wouldn't hurt to look into the camera when you tell voters exactly what you plan to do.

Talk straight and look us in the eye.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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