Tom Foley goes to the Republican convention next week as the public favorite for the GOP nomination for governor, tied in the general-election match up with the Democratic incumbent, Dannel P. Malloy, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Friday.
Foley, the 2010 nominee, was favored by 39 percent of GOP voters, with five others in single digits: Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, 9 percent; Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney, 8 percent; Martha Dean, 5 percent, Joseph Visconti, 4 percent; and Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, 3 percent.
The undecided vote in the GOP race was 28 percent.
(Update: Dean, the GOP’s nominee for attorney general in 2010 and a favorite of gun owners, withdrew later Friday after reviewing the poll.)
In general election match ups, Malloy and Foley were deadlocked at 43 percent, while McKinney and Boughton performed nearly as well, trailing Malloy by 4 and 5 points, respectively, despite lacking Foley’s name recognition.
Quinnipiac could have saved its money: The recently concluded legislative session, one in which weakening revenue projections forced Malloy to renege on a promised tax refund of $55, barely moved the needle from its previous poll in March.
Elected with less than 50 percent of the vote in a three-way race, Malloy has yet to crack 50 percent in two key polling measures: job approval and “deserves re-election.”
His approval rating in the new poll was 48 percent to 46 percent, while 44 percent said he deserves re-election; 48 percent said he does not.
Despite the incumbent’s fundamental weaknesses, the 2014 race for governor in Connecticut remains one of the nation’s most competitive, according to every hypothetical November match up.
“The good news for Gov. Malloy is that the negative headlines about his cancellation of the $55 per person tax refund does not seem to affect his overall approval rating or his standing in the governor’s race. The bad news is that almost all the Republicans are within single digits of Malloy, with Foley tied and Boughton and McKinney on his heels,” said Douglas Schwartz, the poll’s director.
The first-term governor took office in January 2011 to confront a $3.6 billion budget shortfall, two decades of no net job growth and the lingering effects of the 2008 recession. The new poll indicates that the economy and budget are the biggest obstacles to his re-election.
By a margin of 59 percent to 36 percent, voters see Malloy as a strong leader. He is viewed as honest and trustworthy, someone who cares about their problems. But fewer than 40 percent give him good grades for his handling of the economy and budget.
“Economic issues are dragging Gov. Malloy down,” Schwartz said.
Only 21 percent of voters said they were better off than four years ago.
Malloy’s relationship with teachers has been prickly, but voters favored his handling of education, 45 percent to 39 percent.
The static Republican contest is not a shock: The six-way race for the GOP nomination has largely been waged out of the public eye in appeals to convention delegates who will gather next week at the Mohegan Sun to make an endorsement, an expected prelude to a primary in August.
Foley’s lead reflects the key advantage he brought into the race: higher name recognition than the rest of the field, a carry-over from his hard-fought 6,404-vote loss to Malloy in 2010.
A downside for Foley: He was favored by 36 percent of Republican voters in June, before he entered the race. His campaigning, as an exploratory candidate last fall and as a declared candidate since Jan. 30, has won him no appreciable gains among GOP voters.
Nearly three-quarters of voters polled did not know enough about McKinney or Boughton to offer an opinion, compared to 39 percent for Foley. But McKinney trailed Malloy by only four points and Boughton trailed the governor by five, allowing them to tell GOP delegates they would be competitive.
The poll was conducted from May 1 to 6, as the legislature was finishing its annual session and the governor was coping with revenue projections that forced the cancellation of a tax rebate.
Quinnipiac surveyed 1,668 registered voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points in the main poll. The survey included 443 Republicans, so the GOP match ups have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.