A recent Quinnipiac poll demonstrated resounding support for Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who received the highest gubernatorial approval rating in Connecticut history. The poll results, released Nov. 23, can be construed as a setback for Democrats seeking the governor’s office, since the poll also found Rell would win if the 2006 governor’s election were held now, even if U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd decided to enter the race.

According to the poll, Rell currently enjoys an 80 percent approval rating. In addition, the poll results indicated Rell would handily defeat each of the three declared Democratic candidates — Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz ’83, Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. If the election were held now, Bysiewicz and DeStefano would each lose to Rell by a 59-to-22 percent margin and Malloy would lose 61 to 18, the poll projected.

The poll also showed Rell would narrowly win against Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, 45 to 43 percent, if he decided to enter the race. However, this result can be interpreted as a statistical tie since the poll has an error margin of 2.3 percentage points. Quinnipiac surveyed 1,774 registered voters for the poll, 593 of whom were registered Democrats.

Besides comparing each to Rell, the poll results gave insight to the relative positions of the potential Democratic candidates — Dodd, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, Lt. Gov. Kevin Sullivan, Bysiewicz, Malloy and DeStefano. The poll found that in a primary race among all six, Dodd would win with 39 percent of registered Democrats’ votes, ahead of Blumenthal with 28 percent, Bysiewicz with 7 percent, DeStefano with 6 percent, Sullivan with 4 percent and Malloy with 1 percent.

Only Bysiewicz, DeStefano and Malloy have officially entered the race at this point. Meanwhile, speculation about what Dodd will do continues to grow, and all three declared candidates have said they would endorse Dodd if he decided to run.

After the poll was released, the DeStefano campaign issued a press release saying it considered the results evidence the mayor’s campaign was “gaining momentum.” Shonu Gandhi ’03, DeStefano’s campaign manager, said the campaign is encouraged by the fact that DeStefano is polling ahead of Sullivan and nearly tied with Bysiewicz despite the mayor’s never having run for statewide office.

“Contrary to what some people think, no Democrat has a lock on the state house in 2006,” Gandhi said. “Whoever the Democrat is who’s going to win in 2006 is going to have to wage a real campaign of ideas, and we feel very confident about our ability to do that.”

But whether any Democrat will win the governor’s mansion is an open question given Rell’s current popularity — even among Democrats, she has a 75 percent approval rating. Rell spokesman Dennis Schain said though the governor has not yet decided whether she will run for the office, she is heartened by the news of support from her constituents.

“The governor has been working hard since taking office to meet the commitments she made to change the culture of our state government and to … make all of us proud to be from Connecticut again,” Schain said.

Connecticut Democratic leaders discounted the importance of Rell’s support, saying it merely reflects a “honeymoon” phenomenon after the corruption-tainted John Rowland administration. Additionally, the campaigns said analysts predict the poll numbers are likely to change once the legislative session begins in January.

In particular, Bysiewicz said support for Rell may flag as a result of a projected state budget deficit that may reach $1 billion and recent government corruption scandals such as the sale of fake driver’s licenses by the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

With a narrow lead over DeStefano in the poll, Bysiewicz said she considers herself to be the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination at this point because she is the only declared candidate who has won statewide office.

“I believe I have the strongest network of statewide support,” Bysiewicz said. “I feel like we have a very strong position from which to build.”

Malloy, who is currently embroiled in a controversy over alleged corruption regarding building contracts in Stamford, said the poll comes too early in the race to be significant.

“The three announced candidates are basically all in the same position, even though one of them has run multiple times on a statewide basis,” Malloy said. “Once the field is actually finalized, the 12 months to 17 months leading up to the primary will be the definition period.”