HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont leads Republican challenger Bob Stefanowski by 10 points in the latest poll as the two antagonists keep battling with less than two months before the gubernatorial election.
Lamont was ahead Tuesday in the survey by WTNH / The Hill / Emerson College Polling with 9% still undecided. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Another 4% of self-described likely voters said they would choose “someone else’’ without specifying who that would be.
Both candidates are multimillionaire former business executives who are pouring part of their fortunes into the campaigns. Stefanowski has pledged to spend $10 million, while Lamont is expected to spend as much as the $15 million he spent in 2018 to defeat Stefanowski by 3 percentage points.
Asked by The Courant if his campaign’s internal polls are similar to his 10-point lead in the Emerson survey, Lamont responded, “It’s close enough for government work. I think the people believe the state is in a good trajection. I think we’ve turned things around, making progress every day, balancing our budget, getting people back to work.’’
Stefanowski abruptly replaced his campaign manager, Dan Carter, and his top strategist, Liz Kurantowicz, in a shakeup in August that Democrats said was caused by sluggish poll ratings as Stefanowski had not gained traction against Lamont despite months of repeated criticisms of his opponent.
While not mentioning that the poll showed him 10 points behind, Stefanowski said he expects more voters to focus on the race before election day on Nov. 8. The survey showed Lamont with 48% and Stefanowski with 38%.
“Despite the governor and his cronies in Washington spending over half a million dollars per week on dishonest attack ads against me, Governor Lamont is losing support and has now slipped below 50% on the ballot, which is a terrible sign for any incumbent,’’ Stefanowski said. “As more voters focus on the race post-Labor Day and are reminded of Governor Lamont’s record of higher taxes, rising crime, and attacks on parental rights in our schools, his support will continue to erode. We can’t afford four more years of Ned Lamont. My plan to cut taxes, crack down on crime, and empower parents is the positive change we need.’’
The Emerson poll surveyed how voters view the candidates personally — a key factor in deciding whether to vote for a candidate. Overall, 55 percent of those polled said they had a “very favorable or somewhat favorable’’ view of Lamont after nearly four years in office, and another 40% said they had a “somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable’’ view of him.
Stefanowski has a 45% favorability rating with another 45% viewing him unfavorably.
Concerning which candidate is deemed more trustworthy, 57% chose Lamont and 43% picked Stefanowski.
Among women, 50% chose Lamont and 32% said they would vote for Stefanowski.
With millions of dollars available, both candidates have been blitzing the airwaves with commercials on a wide variety of television stations. Lamont has been pushing a bipartisan message with a recent commercial saying that everyone deserves a seat at the table.
In another ad, a small business owner at S&S Worldwide in Colchester looks into the camera and says that Lamont helped his company upon learning that the business was struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.
“They didn’t ask whether we were Republicans or Democrats,’’ co-president Adam Schwartz says. “They just worked with us — relentlessly — to get us the funding we needed. Governor Lamont cares about our small businesses.’’
With Tuesday’s announcement that inflation hit 8.3% in August, Republicans are expected to continue talking about price hikes for the next two months.
“Joe Biden’s inflation crisis continues to hammer families in Connecticut and Ned Lamont can’t get enough of it, cheering on trillions in federal spending that fuels the crisis and dumps debt on future generations,” said Chris Gustafson, a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association, which has been supporting Stefanowski. “Despite having one of the worst unemployment rates in the nation and encouraging the inflation fire, Lamont seems to have no remorse as families across the state struggle to put food on the table and fill up their tanks.”
The inflation report helped lead to a major downturn Tuesday on Wall Street with its worst drop in more than two years. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 3.94%, the S&P 500 dropped by 4.3%, and the technology-heavy Nasdaq index fell by 5.1% in a single day.
Democrats said Tuesday that they will be talking about guns and abortion over the next two months. During a news conference outside the state Capitol, several high-ranking Democrats mentioned Stefanowski’s name repeatedly as they talked about a civil lawsuit that was filed to overturn Connecticut’s ban on assault weapons and limitations on bullets in a magazine.
“I’ve talked many times about a firewall. This is what I’m talking about,’’ said Attorney General William Tong. “We are drawing a line right here. On one side is Donald Trump, Bob Stefanowski, the most extreme voices in this country that want to put assault weapons back on Connecticut’s streets. On the other side of the line is all of us, and we are not going to let Bob Stefanowski and the extreme right wing take us backwards and repeal Connecticut’s gun laws.’’
While Stefanowski was endorsed by the National Rifle Association in the 2018 campaign, Stefanowski has since said that he would not work to overturn the state’s gun laws.
“It’s sad that Governor Lamont chose to play politics on a day where residents’ retirement plans are being decimated by out-of-control inflation and a crashing stock market,’’ Stefanowski said. “Ned knows that I have clearly stated I will not change Connecticut’s gun laws which are the strictest in the nation. Yet, he would rather lie about it again, rather than deal with residents trying to choose between prescription medicines or food because they can’t afford both. Ned should do a bit less campaigning and a bit more governing. That is what people deserve.’’
Christopher Keating can be reached at email@example.com