Reporters, this one included, were a little surprised to see Lt. Governor Michael Fedele at the news conference following the explosion at the Kleen Energy Plant in Middletown, and very surprised NOT to see Governor Rell. Our friend Brian Lockhart at the Stamford Advocate has the details http://blog.ctnews.com/politicalcapitol/2010/02/09/why-lt-gov-fedele-not-rell-was-in-front-of-the-cameras-in-middletown/
However, one has to wonder if there is more to it. The plant explosion was a huge story that made national news. Think about it, when we watch coverage on CNN and the other cable networks of wildfires in California we see Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger overseeing the operation and fielding questions. Hurricanes in Florida, we see Governor Charlie Crist, and so on. On Sunday for the plant explosion, the nation did not see Governor Rell, but rather the Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut. That is certainly unusual. In fact, it wasn’t until well into Monday that Governor Rell appeared on television, although she did telephone interviews Monday morning.
It would be in extremely poor taste for them to admit it, but Fedele’s people have to be thrilled that the Governor skipped the news conference and let their man represent the state on national television. At a time when former Ambassador to Ireland and candidate for governor Tom Foley is all over the airwaves with commercials, Fedele got free air time on all four local television stations on Super Bowl Sunday when record numbers of television sets were on. Tens of thousands of voters were watching. Voters and viewers got the clear impression that the Lt. Governor was running the state. Fedele can put a check next to “stature enhancement” on his campaign checklist.
Sunday was a boost Fedele needed. His campaign got off to rocky start after he told reporters Governor Rell had privately endorsed him. The Governor later said that wasn’t the case and that an endorsement from her may not come until after the primary. Ouch.
Let’s suppose for a moment Rell HAD endorsed Fedele when she announced she would not seek re-election. It is possible Foley wouldn’t have jumped into the race. Ditto for Metro Hartford Alliance President Oz Griebel and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton. Would they really have taken on the chosen candidate of a Governor with such high approval ratings?
Since then the polls have shown Foley to be the leader of the pack, but not by much. A recent Quinnipiac Poll had 59% of Republicans undecided, so there is still time and room for Fedele to grow his support, but the road will be tougher without his State Capitol partner touting the strengths of the man she plucked from obscurity to be her running mate.
Republicans will meet for their convention in May, with Governor Rell presumably staying neutral. But what happens if the delegates nominate Griebel, Foley, Boughton or someone else other than Fedele. Will the Governor continue to stay out of the race, knowing her silence could cost Fedele the primary in August? Let’s face it, her endorsement won’t pack a lot of punch after the primary. Does anyone think Rell would endorse Ned Lamont or Dan Malloy or any Democrat over her fellow Republican, even if it isn’t Fedele?
I don’t think Rell’s decision to let Fedele take such a high profile role on Sunday was a calculated political move, but regardless it helped her right hand man. Fedele needs Rell’s endorsement sooner than later, but in the meantime little gifts from the Governor can’t hurt.