Sabatos Crystal Ball

Connecticut Races

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Connecticut (02)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Joe Courtney (D) will unseat Rep. Rob Simmons (R). Remember where the closest House race was located in the 1994 GOP wave election? If you guessed eastern Connecticut, you’re a winner: Sam Gejdenson (D) “secured” a 21-vote victory over Ed Muenster that year. It’s entirely possible that a similar scenario will unfold yet again this year, and if we had to pick one Republican to survive in Connecticut, it would be Simmons. We’re going to go with Courtney, but it’s a pure guess.

August 12, 2006 Update:

GOP Rep. Rob Simmons is the Northeast’s textbook endangered GOP incumbent. There’s nothing particularly special about the races he and his challenger, former State Rep. Joe Courtney are running, but Simmons is simply a relatively likeable Republican incumbent running in a very heavily Democratic district in a heavily Democratic year. Simmons may receive a fundraising boost from a visit by George H.W. Bush (41), but it’s looking like a pure tossup at the moment.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Are moderate New England Republicans like Simmons (and fellow Connecticut Rep. Chris Shays) an endangered species in Congress? If 2006 produces a pro-Democratic wave even a third as swift as the 1994 GOP wave, districts such as this one will be among the first to change hands. Yes, GOP Rep. Rob Simmons is a skilled campaigner who played a role in saving an important submarine base in Groton from closure last year, but Democrat Joe Courtney is on pace to double his fundraising total from 2002 and continues to enjoy the advantage of running in a district that prefers Democratic candidates at the national level. For the moment, our gut tells us that Simmons will find a way to pull it out, but given the commitment expressed by Democrats this year to taking back this seat, the race has entered toss-up territory.


February 2006 Outlook:

Three-term GOP Rep. Rob Simmons has been a fixture on the national Democratic target list since he unseated Rep. Sam Gejdenson in 2000, and former Norwich city councilman Jim Sullivan came closest to taking the eastern Connecticut district back last year. Still, Sullivan received only 46 percent of the vote, and while Simmons faced an early scare this year when a critical sub base in the district was added to the Base Realignment and Closure commission’s hit list via the Pentagon’s recommendations, he is breathing easier these days now that BRAC commissioners voted to axe its closure at the eleventh hour.

The 2002 Democratic nominee, former State Rep. Joe Courtney, has declared a bid for the seat and will doubtless try to make hay out of Simmons’s ties to Rep. Tom DeLay throughout the race. He has also appeared to have gotten an earlier start on fundraising than he did in 2002, as his campaign reported $450,000 in the bank at the close of last year. But or now, Simmons, who has been careful to proclaim his independence from DeLay and other elements of his party’s leadership, remains the favorite.

Candidates

Joe Courtney (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,998,509.03 | Total Spent: $1,894,420.97
Website

Rob Simmons (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,583,549.31 | Total Spent: $2,025,444.77
Website

Connecticut (04)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Diane Farrell (D) will unseat Rep. Christopher Shays (R). This race may win the award for becoming the nation’s media darling for purposes of gauging voter attitudes about Iraq, but we believe Shays’ change of stance on the issue probably came too late to save his career as the top maverick of the GOP House conference.

September 22, 2006 Update:

Republican Christopher Shays has taken so many trips to Iraq lately that it’s a wonder he finds time to campaign in his Fairfield County district! And while the trips may enhance his expertise, it gives Democrat challenger Diane Farrell much more of an opportunity to drive home her case to the war is a mistake and a quagmire. Shays continues to be in grave danger of losing his seat.

June 29, 2006 Update:

It is the great irony of the current race to represent Connecticut’s 4th District: one of the House’s most knowledgeable members on the issue of Iraq is also the House’s most in danger of losing because of his position on the war.

There’s no doubt that Iraq has dominated this contest so far, with Democrat Diane Farrell staking out a clear anti-war stance and the incumbent maverick Republican Christopher Shays arguing for a full U.S. commitment to democratic transition in Iraq. Shays has always been regarded back home as a fierce independent, but as a Republican running for reelection in a liberal district and a Democratic year, he’s in for the fight of his life in 2006. At this point, we consider Shays the most endangered Connecticut Republican and this contest a pure toss-up.


February 2006 Outlook:

For all the talk of moderate Republicans’ endangered species status prior to the 2004 election, most had an easier than expected time winning reelection. But of the two Connecticut moderates who faced strong challenges last year, renegade Rep. Christopher Shays ended up with the narrower race, as he turned back a stiff challenge from Westport Selectwoman Diane Farrell by only 52 to 48 percent, the first time the campaign finance reform champion had fallen under the 60 percent mark in many years.

This year, Farrell is back for another race, and even though Shays demonstrated once again his willingness to break from his party by calling for the resignation of Rep. Tom DeLay back in April (and bragging about that call more recently), he is once again in for the race of his career. This Fairfield County-based district is one of the most Democratic seats in the nation still represented by a member of the GOP (albeit a nominal one). Still, Shays retains a strong local following and will most likely be able to count on the continued support of some liberal PACs. He has clearly not been asleep at the wheel, as he outraised Farrell 2 to 1 during the last fundraising quarter. While this race could easily move into the toss-up column as it heats up closer to November, we give Shays a tiny lead for now.

Candidates

Diane Farrell (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,
702,570.23 | Total Spent: $2,238,427.70
Website

Christopher Shays (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $3,470,735.78 | Total Spent: $3,142,389.82
Website

Connecticut (05)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Chris Murphy (D) will unseat Rep. Nancy Johnson (R). Johnson recognized this challenge soon, and reacted toughly from the start. She has spent more money to defend this seat than nearly all incumbents, but her problem might be that she attacked Murphy too harshly in a recent ad; her caricature of Murphy going door-to-door sympathizing with drug dealers may have backfired, and we would be surprised to see her prevail against the former campaign manager of the woman who nearly beat her ten years ago.

September 26, 2006 Update:

With Republicans feeling the pressure for change in the House all across the nation, some are returning to common 2002 and 2004 election themes, such as national security. Rep. Nancy Johnson‘s campaign has released a graphic, new ad depicting her opponent Chris Murphy as “wrong on security, wrong for America”. Johnson believes she can overcome national trends with her huge financial edge and campaign savvy, but is obviously feeling the pressure of being an endangered Republican candidate in the 2006 House elections. Johnson’s campaign is one of the first tangible examples of acting on the advice on White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove to cast the midterm elections as a choice between a party with a “post-9/11 worldview” and one with a “pre-9/11 worldview.”

Clare Seekins, Crystal Ball Northeastern Regional Correspondent

July 13, 2006 Update:

Although it is hard to believe that this district was on very few pundits’ radar screens only half a year ago, it’s plain to see now that Democratic state Sen. Chris Murphy of Cheshire has emerged as one of the out-of-power party’s best hopes for defeating a well-entrenched House GOP moderate. The last time Murphy was this actively engaged in a race for Congress was ten years ago, when he was in his early twenties and served as campaign manager for Democratic challenger Charlotte Koskoff, who capitalized on a 1996 Democratic surge in the then-6th District to almost pull off a stunning upset against GOP Rep. Nancy Johnson.

Although it is unlikely Murphy will ever match the fundraising powerhouse Johnson dollar-for-dollar here, Murphy is holding his own, and will post a second quarter report pegging his total dollars raised for the cycle at over $1 million. Murphy’s camp finds further encouragement in a Democratic survey taken for his campaign this week showing him leading Johnson 46%-44%, within the poll’s margin of error. The Crystal Ball views those numbers with skepticism and believes Johnson is narrowly ahead, but this race is certainly well on its way to the Dirty Thirty. The 800-pound gorilla, of course, is the outcome of the Democratic primary race between Sen. Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont, and Johnson’s camp hopes a possible independent Lieberman candidacy would drive up turnout among moderate voters to her advantage. We’ll be sure to gauge this race again by August, but for now, Johnson retains the edge.

February 2, 2006 Update:

It’s true that GOP Rep. Nancy Johnson was quick to wrap herself in the shroud of “Connecticut for Lieberman” as soon as Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman announced his independent candidacy for Senate, but it’s not clear that the three-way Senate race is to Democratic state Sen. Chris Murphy’s detriment. After all, both Lieberman and democrat challenger Ned Lamont support Murphy, and will work to bring out Democratic voters in working class towns like Waterbury and New Britain. Can Johnson’s financial stockpile save her? In the end, it may be just enough, but we believe this will be a very close race.


February 2006 Outlook:

With over $2 million in campaign cash on hand, 12-term GOP Rep. Nancy Johnson boasts one of the largest House campaign warchests in the country. Still, Johnson sits in one of the most Democratic districts held by a Republican in the country, and though a moderate, she was almost defeated in the Democratic year of 1996 when activist Charlotte Koskoff came out of nowhere to hold the incumbent to 50 percent of the vote.

This year, Democrats have a credible and well-funded candidate in State Sen. Chris Murphy and are hoping to once again make this a close contest, but Republicans maintain that party ethics will actually be less of an issue this year for Johnson than it was in ten years ago. Johnson starts the race favored.

Candidates

Chris Murphy (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,179,020.52 | Total Spent: $1,837,458.12
Website

Nancy Johnson (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $3,506,494.95 | Total Spent: $4,253,924.54
Website