Ugly win aside, Malloy faces opportunity

With the exception of the most partisan of his supporters, there seemed to be no great joy in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's re-election victory. Instead, the common emotion was relief that this most doleful of campaigns had mercifully ended.

Gov. Malloy received the endorsement of this newspaper and congratulations are in order. He deserves credit for taking the state successfully through an historic fiscal crisis and for beginning the work of recovering from a deep recession. In leading the charge to pass into law strict gun-control reforms, he took on the gun lobby and survived. In pushing for mandatory paid sick leave and a higher minimum wage, he displayed empathy for the struggles of the working poor.

His challenges moving forward include keeping state finances balanced without turning to more tax increases. Gov. Malloy must make sure the legislature adheres to commitments it has made to address the state's underfunded pension system. In addition, he must work with the private sector to make Connecticut a more business friendly state. It rates poorly in that regard.

It was the manner of his victory that leaves such an odorous wake.

Gov. Malloy won despite an abysmal approval rating, which stood at 43 percent on the eve of the election, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. From the onset, the Malloy campaign saw that its path to victory was to lower the approval rating of the governor's rematch opponent, Republican Tom Foley, to a similarly low level.

The means to that end were relentless attack ads aimed at past business dealings in which businesses closed, people lost their jobs, a union was busted, but from which Mr. Foley emerged tens of millions of dollars richer. Mr. Foley and the PACs backing him responded in kind, going after the incumbent governor on taxes, the economy and alleged broken promises.

Both sides played fast and loose with facts in their goal of demonizing the other. It was a cynical, ugly campaign. In the end, many voters went to the polls Tuesday convinced that they were choosing among the lesser of two evils. Being the less evil is not among the most inspiring of ways to win, but win it Gov. Malloy did.

Gov. Malloy's roughly 20,000-vote victory was an improvement on his roughly 6,000-vote victory over Mr. Foley in 2010. The vanquished Mr. Foley alluded to how difficult it is for a Republican to win in Connecticut, seemingly forgetting that the two governors preceding Gov. Malloy were Republicans.

"We did as well as a Republican can do in Connecticut," he told supporters early Wednesday morning in giving a not-quite-a-concession speech. A little more than 12 hours later he officially conceded.

In truth, Mr. Foley ran a poor campaign. Walking a narrow path in hopes of not offending anyone, he inspired no one. He ripped Gov. Malloy's policies, but never defined his own. He needed to do better in Connecticut's Democratic-dominated cities, but instead did worse.

During the campaign, he released an urban agenda plan, but much of it was cut and pasted from other sources. It lacked any ideological coherency. The Republican did not offer city voters any conservative, market-based alternatives for addressing their problems. He never made a genuine attempt to campaign in the cities on the plan he did release.

Having seen the state through the worst of it, Gov. Malloy faces an opportunity. He has a chance to build upon the economic progress seen over the last year and demonstrate that he and fellow Democrats, who continue to control the House and Senate, can practice fiscal constraint.

For a second term he arrives with a narrow victory and no voter mandate, once again facing the challenge of demonstrating that the majority, as marginal as it may be, made the right choice.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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