In the gubernatorial primary, The New York Times wrote Monday that Democrat Ned Lamont, taking on former Stamford mayor Dannel P. Malloy for the party’s nomination, has changed stripes from a “darling of the left” anti-war candidate, which he was in the 2006 Senate primary, to a centrist in his 2010 contest. Is that a fair characterization?
It’s a very different race. The 2006 race was almost totally about the Iraq war. Iraq has never been mentioned, basically, in this campaign, and Lamont is presenting himself as a business executive as opposed to an anti-war activist. It is true that Lamont has changed but it’s a completely different race, completely different issues, completely different opponent.
He’s the same guy that he was in ’06, he’s the same guy that I met twenty-five years ago and wrote about in the Greenwich Time as a young kid. He has not changed as a person; the emphasis has changed. In the ’06 race he owned the cable company that he still has, he was a business executive, he was the CEO of his cable company; all those things are exactly the same. But most people only knew three things about him when he came on the scene in ’06: he was a Democrat, he was against the Iraq War, and he wasn’t Joe Lieberman. And for a lot of liberal Democrats that was enough.
Lamont faced initial criticism for not wanting to debate. How did that refusal impact his campaign?
There was a three-week period when he did not debate. His position all along was that they had twenty-five or twenty-eight joint appearances. He did eventually debate after those three weeks were up. It was a debate that was shown on public television, simulcast on public radio, and shown on the CBS local broadcast. When you add all of those together it was a pretty heavily watched debate. Most Republicans and Democrats say that the delay did hurt him. I have asked him about that and he said he wasn’t sure. But many think it did because it became an issue that would not have been an issue if he had have said, “Okay, I will do the debate. “
What do you think of the national coverage of the Connecticut primaries so far?
Politico did a lot when Dodd was involved. The New York Times is The New York Times and they bring a lot of weight. They do not cover Connecticut the way they used to. They do not have a full-time person in Hartford the way they used to. Put it this way, they’re not covering this race the way they covered Lamont-Lieberman in 2006. Then, The New York Times had a full-time person in Hartford, and covered the Lamont-Lieberman race every day (it might not have been in the paper every day but they covered it every day). And they also had political reporters in Washington and New York keeping an eye on it. However, when they do cover the race, the story has impact.
And what about the local coverage?
If you have been paying attention in Connecticut, there’s been a tremendous amount of information on the governor’s race and the U.S. Senate race. The amount of copy inches and blog posts has been huge. Anyone who wants to get up to speed on this, it’s not very hard. Plus, if you’re an average voter, you’re getting this barrage of TV commercials. And if you’re a registered voter, you’re getting a lot of stuff in the mail. On the flipside, it’s a primary in August and people are at the beach.
Have you ever been busier in a primary?
No, I’ve been doing seven days a week. Hugely busy. Right now you have five people running for governor, a sixth person running as an independent. Three people in the U.S. senate primary. We only have five congressional districts in Connecticut and four of the five have primaries for the Republicans. There’s something like forty-four primaries today. You even have primaries in Connecticut for probate judges. Between the blog and the newspaper there’s been a lot of coverage, and a lot of work, as you can imagine. It’s a bit of around-the-clock lately, we’ve really got the whole staff working on this thing. But after the primary it’s a whole new world. I’ll definitely take a break and then we’ll do it all again in the fall.