After faltering in late August, President Barack Obama appears to have reaffirmed his grasp on the state’s electorate.
A poll released Wednesday by the University of Connecticut and the Hartford Courant, found Obama leading Republican challenger Mitt Romney by 21 percentage points, 53 to 32, among Connecticut voters. That result came less than a month after a Quinnipiac University poll put Obama only seven points ahead in a state that the president carried by 22 points in 2008 and is considered to be among the safest states for Democrats. Experts and politicos on campus suggested that, beyond the presidential race, these numbers could bear on the race for the state’s open Senate seat.
Gary Rose, a professor of government and politics at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield and frequent commentator on polling data, attributed Obama’s gains in Connecticut primarily to a successful Democratic National Convention. The convention, a three-day event held in Charlotte, N.C., in early September, gave the Obama campaign significant media attention and an opportunity to present its message to voters.
Meanwhile, Rose added, September has been Romney’s “worst month of the entire campaign.” Over the last several weeks, he said, Romney’s momentum has been stalled due to his premature reaction to the killing of American ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and the release of a video in which he is seen characterizing 47 percent of Americans as parasitic on government entitlement programs at a fundraiser.
Romney’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
The Courant poll represents a significant shift in the state from last month. The late August Quinnipiac poll “was not an outlier” at that time, according to The New York Times polling blog FiveThirtyEight, whose tracking average of Connecticut polls put Obama ahead by 9.4 points on Sept. 16. In her post on the blog, contributing writer Micah Cohen attributed the Democratic Party’s weakening hold on Connecticut since 2008 to the state’s struggling economy — the state’s current unemployment rate of 8.5 percent is nearly a quarter of a percentage point higher than the national average — and a “unique bloc of affluent, Wall Street-connected voters with whom Mr. Romney may hold special appeal.”
Rose noted that Obama’s lead in Connecticut is likely to settle slightly as the boost from the convention fades, reflecting national polls in which Obama’s “post-convention bounce” has dissipated, with his lead over Romney in national tracking polls declining to 1 percent or an even tie, down from a high of a seven-point lead a week ago.
Rose predicted that while Obama will almost certainly carry Connecticut in November, the margin of victory will likely fall between the seven-point spread of the Quinnipiac poll and the 21 points of the Courant poll.
According to the Courant poll, there is significant electoral diversity throughout the state, with Obama only leading by seven points in the wealthy and suburban Fairfield and Litchfield Counties, traditional areas of Republican strength in the state.
The recent rise in support for Obama in Connecticut might have consequences for the tight Senate race between Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy and Republican former wrestling executive Linda McMahon. Rose noted that because most voters decide which presidential candidate to support and then vote down party lines — a phenomenon called the “coattail” effect — Obama’s success could benefit Murphy.
“An enthusiastic vote for Obama will have a positive effect for not just Chris Murphy,” but also Democratic candidates further down the ticket, said Jonathan Harris, executive director of the Connecticut Democratic Party.
The Yale College Democrats, who canvass throughout the state each election cycle, frequently invoke Obama when talking to voters about the Senate race, according to Dems President Zak Newman ’13.
“Obama does a lot for Chris Murphy,” Newman said.
Yale College Republicans Chairwoman Elizabeth Henry ’14 disagreed, suggesting that the contests are independent of each other and that recent criticism of Chris Murphy’s financial past leveled by McMahon was moving the Senate race in the “opposite direction” of the Connecticut presidential polls.
Connecticut last voted for a Republican in a presidential election in 1988, when it supported George H. W. Bush ’48.