Residents like Rell, her budget

Despite the economic crisis and Connecticut’s record budget deficit, Gov. M. Jodi Rell remains one of the most liked politicians in the state.

In a Quinnipiac University Poll released late last week, Rell was shown to hold a 72 percent approval rating, a number within the margin of error from last month’s 75 percent approval. After months of Democratic attacks on her budget proposal, the Republican governor appears untarnished by the ongoing battle over the state budget. In fact, despite the controversy, Quinnipiac polls show her approval rating has improved over the past year.

While Rell is as yet undecided as to whether to seek another term in 2010, potential opponent James Amann, former Connecticut Speaker of the House, chastised Rell last week for not making use of her public approval ratings. Rell’s office declined to comment for this article.

“I would give my left leg for her 67 percent — the things I could do with that much support,” he said in an interview.

Speaking to a group of Yale College Democrats Monday, potential gubernatorial candidate and Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy said Rell hides behind her charming personality to avoid dealing with the real issues, and to keep her poll ratings up.

“She has taken this idea of ‘Jane Everybody’ and has convinced everyone not to look behind the curtain into what is really happening in state government,” he said.

Malloy cited Rell’s budget proposal, which had predicted a deficit $3 billion less than the figure prepared by the General Assembly’s Office of Fiscal Analysis, as an example.

State Senate Majority Leader Sen. Martin Looney of New Haven added Thursday that even with the high poll numbers, Rell has chosen not to act.

“She is personally very pleasant and gracious and continues to be the single most popular governor in the nation,” he said. “But she has failed to take advantage of her political capital during these deep fiscal times.”

Looney said he was frustrated that Rell presented her plan to close a $6 billion deficit without raising taxes, despite higher predictions from the OFA.

“She wants it to appear that Democrats are responsible for tax increases,” Looney said, suggesting that Rell was politicizing the budget process.

But this criticism of Rell is based on an assumption that state residents do not actually support Rell’s policies, said Kenneth Dautrich, a Professor of Public Policy at the University of Connecticut and a budget advisor to Rell — an assumption he rejects.

“She is popular because most people in the state agree with her,” he said. “I, for one, wouldn’t argue for using political capital to do something you are personally against.”

As state Democrats seek to attack Rell on her handling of the economy, they may be shooting themselves in the foot — a question from last month’s Quinnipiac University Poll on Rell’s handling of the economy indicated that Connecticut residents approve of her methods by a near 2 to 1 margin.

According to the Quinnipiac University Poll, State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 remains the most popular elected official in the state with an 81 percent approval rating.

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