I was a little surprised when I got a call late this morning that Ned Lamont was creating an exploratory committee to look into running for governor. I had heard the rumors, but didn’t give them much credence on the assumption he was waiting until 2012 for a rematch with Senator Joe Lieberman. However, perhaps showing interest in the big office at the state capitol is his new route to Washington.
I can’t help but wonder with the election only a year away, why didn’t Lamont simply announce today that in fact, he is running for governor? Why a committee? He can’t seriously be worried about raising money or getting support from his enthusiastic supporters and fans from ’06. Also, the timing seems odd: a day after Democrats got their clocks cleaned in New Jersey and Virginia and on the same week he appeared on MSNBC criticizing his nemesis Senator Joe Lieberman.
I think Lamont wants to be in the right place at the right time if Senator Chris Dodd should announce he has changed his mind and won’t run for re-election after all. If a new round of polling shows Dodd still trailing Rob Simmons, Tom Foley and maybe even Linda McMahon, that would mean for most of 2009, Dodd has been on the losing end. This, for a 5 term incumbent in a Democratic state. The situation is not good, and after seeing what happened to Democrats in New Jersey and Virginia, Connecticut Democrats may want to go with a candidate with a better chance of fighting what could be a wave of anger and a desire for change from the electorate. On “Face the State” this summer, former Democratic Party chairman Ed Marcus said if Dodd hadn’t reversed the poll numbers by the fall, Democrats should go with a plan B, as in a new candidate. I’ve spoken with many Democrats who support Dodd, but are very concerned the party could lose the seat if Dodd is the nominee.
Enter Ned Lamont. With Dodd out of the way, Lamont could easily become the frontrunner in the race, and instantly eliminate the raison d’etre of the McMahon, Simmons and other Republican senate campaigns. What would their argument be for running? They are all focused on Dodd and his troubles. I can’t recall a release or campaign appearance from any Republican candidate that doesn’t mention Chris Dodd.
I asked Lamont today if Dodd did drop out, would he be interested. He could have answered “no. I am committed to pursuing the governorship,” but he didn’t. I couldn’t get him to rule out the senate possibility, instead he said he was focused on the exploratory committee. “Does this mean you are giving up any dream of becoming a senator?” I asked. Lamont could have said, I’m not interested in the senate. He didn’t..
Despite the enormous amount of personal wealth Lamont could pour into a race for governor, Governor Rell could still be tough to beat. The most recent poll shows Rell with a 59 percent approval rating, higher than President Obama’s here in Connecticut, and 57 percent of those polled in the September QU survey would vote to re-elect her.
The senate race seems a much easier challenge for Lamont and he would be able to focus on one of his top priorities: improving health care. I don’t think he wants his party to hand over that issue to a Senator McMahon-Simmons-Caligiuri-Foley-Schiff.