By Sam Iacobellis

Note: Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their authors and not necessarily those of Penn Dems as an organization.

Come November 4th, the people of Connecticut will head to the polls to elect a governor. For most voters in the Constitution State, there will be little excitement in the candidate for whom they cast their ballots.

Incumbent Governor Dannel Malloy (D) has served since 2011, suffers from anemic approval ratings and unenthused base.  His challenger, businessman Tom Foley (R), served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland during the Bush Administration oversaw economic development in Iraq during the years after the onset of the Iraq War. Foley and Malloy faced off four years ago in a race that saw Malloy pulling ahead by a mere 6,000 votes out of 1.2 million ballots cast.

The question remains, why is a Democratic governor in one of the bluest states in the nation having such a difficult reelection bid? Why is there so little passion associated with these candidates? When the people of the Nutmeg State wake up on November 5th who will be their governor? Let’s take a look.

Venom and vitriol dominate the discourse between Governor Malloy and Mr. Foley. Whether in debates or the countless TV ads that grace Connecticut airwaves, it is plain to see that Foley and Malloy do not like one another. Foley portrays Malloy as an arrogant elitist whose sole goal is to tax and spend to advance his liberal agenda. On the other hand, Foley is framed as an out-of-touch millionaire who is only running against Malloy and not for any idea or plan in particular.

Republicans and their Super PACs attribute the lagging economic recovery in the state to tax raises and other policies that have been deemed economically detrimental. While the difficult job numbers and overall economic climate in the state cannot be solely attributed to Malloy and his administration, the governor has below-water approval numbers with most in the state believing he has not earned a second term.

The good news for the Democrats is that, over the past month, Foley’s negative numbers have increased by nearly double digits, greatly improving the relative strength of the Governor’s chances in the homestretch.

With Presidents Clinton and Obama slated to visit the stump for Malloy this month to rally the state’s progressive base, one could assume that, even with the challenges facing the governor, he is in the clear.

Not so fast. Another candidate, playing the role of spoiler, makes prognosticating this race with any degree of certainty difficult.

Petitioning candidate Joe Visconti is polling in the high single digits, offering the closest thing to a Tea Party alternative or  “none of the above” option on the ballot. One may say that the presence of a candidate like Visconti on the ballot is only a positive for Malloy, since he will be siphoning conservative votes away from Foley.  While this is most certainly true, his place on the ballot will have a deeper impact.

In 2010, Malloy received nearly 20% of his votes (over 100,000) from Connecticut’s six largest cities (Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, Stamford, Waterbury, and Norwalk) and will need most, if not all, of the same support to reemerge this year.

If anti-Malloy voters choose Visconti instead of Foley it helps the governor, but if those same voters helped elect him four years ago, Malloy is in trouble.

At the end of the day, the choice Connecticut voters have to make is clear. Do we want denounce a governor who has proven to be a wise and capable leader in times of crisis and a champion of progressive causes (i.e. raising the minimum wage, decriminalizing marijuana, and implementing tougher gun laws), or a more capitalist alternative?

So why does a race like this matter? Because come inauguration day this January, the one thing that people of the state, regardless of ideology, have demanded is accountability and vision in their leader. I believe Governor Malloy will be reelected. No matter who is at the helm in Hartford, I have faith that a steadfast leader will emerge to lead Connecticut through a time in our history where tough decisions will have to be made.

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