Sabatos Crystal Ball

Connecticut Races

House Outlook for 2008

Will the GOP Swing the Pendulum Back?

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Connecticut (04)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


November 18, 2008 Update:

The last remaining Republican congressman in true-blue New England, Republican incumbent Christopher Shays was always somewhat of a misfit. In a political atmosphere highly poisonous for Republican candidates, he finally conceded on Nov. 4 to Democrat Jim Himes after losing 51% to 48%.

September 29, 2008 Update:

Representative Christopher Shays’ remarkable resilience in the heavily Democratic fourth district has depended upon his uncanny ability to align himself with changing constituent sentiments rather than the GOP party line. Last cycle, Shays was pitch-perfect in pivoting from an Iraq War advocate to a critic of the administration’s strategy just in time to fend off a strong challenger and the Democratic wave.

This cycle, however, Shays may be a step off of the pace. When questioned about the financial meltdown, Shays repeated McCain’s mistake of reassuring that “our economy is fundamentally strong.” Regardless of the validity of the claim, such statements are toxic in an atmosphere of economic hysteria. That many of Shay’s constituents have ties to distressed financial firms like Lehman Brothers and AIG only compounds the danger to the incumbent. Compounding the bad news, Shays’ opponent, Jim Himes, has pulled even with the incumbent in Democratic internal polling, reflecting the gravity of the situation.

That said, past claims of Shays’ demise have been greatly overstated. Look for Shays to push back against Himes’ attacks by linking himself to Barack Obama, for whom Shays has a legislative ally over the past four years. Also, Himes—who replaced his campaign manager two weeks ago—is not without troubles either. It’s still anyone’s guess who will win the race, but the Crystal Ball wouldn’t bet against the ability of Chris Shays to recover from his mistakes and defy the electoral odds once again.

May 20, 2008 Update:

So far, the money situation looks bright for newly minted Democratic nominee Jim Himes who has raised $1.4 million and has just over $1 million cash on hand. Republican incumbent Chris Shays is no slouch, however, as he has $1.2 million in his bank account. This is shaping up to be a barn-burner this fall.


Background

Representative Chris Shays, the fiercely independent Republican from Connecticut’s forth district, is a survivor of tough reelection bouts. The past two cycles, he turned back two challenges from selectman Diane Farrell while his colleagues, Rob Simmons and Nancy Johnson, lost in more Republican districts. Through his criticism of the Iraq war and moderate social positions, Shays has distanced himself from the unpopular Bush administration and become something of an institution in Connecticut politics.

This cycle, the master of survival has drawn Greenwich Democratic chair Jim Himes for his likely November opponent. Himes, like Shays, has raised money well and may have the ability to self-fund from his former status as Goldman-Sachs vice president. Unlike in 2006, Shays will not have the coattails of Governor Jodi Rell or Senator Lieberman in 2008, but with the tenth-term Congressman’s demonstrated electoral skills, it is hard not to give Shays decent odds for returning to the Hill in 2009.

Candidates

Chris Shays (I) – Republican – current Congressman
Website

Jim Himes – Democrat – businessman, former chair of Greenwich Democratic Town Committee
Website

Connecticut (05)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


November 18, 2008 Update:

Freshman congressman Chris Murphy trounced his Republican opponent David Cappiello by 20 percentage points to retake the district. Murphy won in nearly every municipality, including Cappiello’s hometown of Danbury.

May 20, 2008 Update:

With the Republican nominee, David Cappiello, chosen and looking ahead to November, Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy will have to start concentrating on the election as well. As things stand, Murphy is in good shape, with $1.5 million cash on hand to Cappiello’s $400,000, but locals warn that Cappiello is a good candidate in a swing district. If the current Democratic swell, and Murphy’s fundraising, continue on into the fall, this race could get out of the GOP’s reach. If conditions change, however, this could become another in a series of close Connecticut races.


Background

In 2006, Representative Chris Murphy unseated ex-Rep. Nancy Johnson in Connecticut’s most conservative congressional district. Unfortunately for the GOP, a Connecticut conservative is a liberal most anywhere else. Early in the cycle, Johnson passed on the rematch, opening the door for state senator David Capiello and ex-state representative Tony Nania to join the race.

Neither Murphy nor Capiello are in top campaign form as both have dealt with embarrassing fundraising snafus. Newspaper reports forced Murphy to return $2.5K of contributions from a healthcare provider under federal investigation, and Capiello has come under scrutiny for $40K of illegally bundled contributions from trash magnate James Galante. Both candidates must get their act together by November, but the continued low profile of this race seems only to benefit the incumbent.

Candidates

David Cappiello – Republican – state senator
Website

Chris Murphy (I) – Democrat – current Congressman
Website