In TV wars, Malloy pivots from attacks to a tiny confession

It’s the commercial many Democrats wanted to see, the one where Gov. Dannel P. Malloy takes a breath, looks into a camera and wryly acknowledges what every pollster knows: Half the state doesn’t like him.

“I have a confession to make,” a casually dressed Malloy says directly into the camera, barely pausing for a beat. “I’m not always that fun-loving guy you might think.”

Malloy is in the closing week of a deadlocked campaign with Republican Tom Foley, the man he defeated by half a percentage point in 2010. After a brutal television campaign aimed at bringing Foley’s negatives close to his own, the governor is acknowledging — more or less — his own abrasiveness.

In a 30-second commercial funded by the Connecticut Democratic Party, not his own campaign, the first-term Democrat tries to place his personality in the context the challenges of the past four years: an inherited $3.6 billion deficit, a series of crippling storms and a slow economic recovery.

“But I take this job seriously,” Malloy says over a series of fast-cut images that appear beneath favorable headlines. “I’ve made some tough decisions to fix our budget, increase funding for our schools and keep jobs here in Connecticut.”

On screen begins the long, near-unanimous roll of the newspapers endorsements that have come his way in recent days — The Hartford Courant, the Connecticut Post, the Greenwich Post, Tribuna, The Day of New London, the New Haven Register, The Bulletin of Norwich.

The camera falls back on Malloy, just long enough for him to say, “I know you don’t always agree with me. But please know this.

“Throughout Connecticut’s darkest days, its economic turmoil, natural disasters and human tragedy,” he says over glimpses of storm damage and, briefly, what appears to be a picture of him in Newtown. “I’ve always, always looked out for you.”

“I’m Dan Malloy, and I approve this message, because I love our state.”

Campaigns generally close on a positive note, but the airwaves will remain dense with attacks. Malloy and Foley each are supported by well-funded independent-expenditure groups that are outspending the two candidates.

And their ads are nearly all negative.

Under the state’s voluntary system of public financing, Malloy and Foley each were granted $6.5 million for the general election. According to a recent campaign-finance report, the state Democratic Party has spent an additional $570,908 supporting Malloy since July.

Foley’s campaign has been airing an upbeat spot for the past week, offering himself as a necessary change in Connecticut.

Grow Connecticut, a super PAC supporting his challenge, had been airing a piece that all but calls Malloy a liar for raising taxes in his first year as governor. It switched Monday to a spot that calls him one.

“We’re not raising taxes. That’s the last thing we will do,” Malloy says in a clip from an Oct. 26, 2010 debate. Absent is his hastily added qualifier, “If we have to, and only then to protect the safety net.”

Connecticut Forward, the super PAC supporting Malloy, is airing a commercial featuring a working man, Bruce Kern of Oxford, talking derisively about Foley, a Greenwich businessman.

“My wife and I work some long hours, but it’s tough to make ends meet,” Kern said. “And when I hear about Tom Foley’s background, it’s clear he’s gotten rich by sticking it to people like us.”