Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in Connecticut roughly by a two to one margin. The largest group in the state is unaffiliateds, sometimes called independents.
In a primary contest, a Republican hoping to be nominated by his party will trim his message to a right of center audience; a Democrat, contrary-wise, will appeal to a left of center audience. The “center” in American politics is not a static position; it is a statistical average determined by one’s disposition to side with right or left positions.
Historically, Republican national office holders in Connecticut have been moderates. Members of the legacy media sometimes have tagged such moderates as “pragmatists,” a term of political art that has little practical meaning. The left and right wings of the parties, when they are inclined to be polite in their verbal assaults, more often refer to moderates or pragmatists as treacherous and traitorous sell-outs.
Between the nomination convention and the general election, sometimes interlaced with primaries, yawns the credibility gap. In a primary, one’s message is pitched to party activists, liberals and progressives within the Democratic Party, and conservatives and libertarians within the Republican Party.
In the general election now under way in Connecticut, we are witnessing a now traditional ceremony that might be called “bridging the gap.” The contest for the U.S. Senate seat in the 5th District provides a near text-book example of gap jumping. On the Democratic side, Elizabeth Esty, a moderate at heart, was strumming liberal and progressive chords so long as Speaker of the House Chris Donovan was a live option in the primary. But when Mr. Donovan was ejected from the race by an FBI investigation, Ms. Esty quickly reverted to form, just in time to confront Republican contender for the seat Andrew Roraback, a Republican liberal on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage who stiles himself a "fiscal conservative."
Mr. Roraback, a state senator for 17 years, vied for the Republican Party nomination along with 5 other mainstream conservatives. He emerged as the Republican Party nominee with a hair thin margin of the delegate vote and won the Republican primary with 32 percent of the vote. Mark Greenberg garnered 27 percent of the primary vote, Lisa Wilson-Foley 21 percent and Justin Bernier 19 percent. In short order, the conservative Republicans dropped away and endorsed Mr. Roraback.
The attention of Mr. Roraback and Ms. Esty was then focused on the general election. And both candidates predictably readjusted their messages to a general election campaign, building bridges across their primary rhetoric that would touch the hearts of general election voters.
“I am a Republican,” Mr. Roraback had announced during his primary, “make no mistake about that, but I am an American before I am a Republican. I wish Republicans would elect the next member to Congress (from Connecticut), but they will not. And the Democrats won’t either — it will depend on the 46 percent of voters who are independent.” Throughout his political career, Mr. Roraback has identified himself as a fiscal conservative.
Almost immediately, a snare was set for Mr. Roraback. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) accused Mr. Roraback in an ad of having fraternized with the Tea Party Movement, perhaps the most seriously -- some would say purposely – misunderstood political movement of the last decade. The Tea Party movement is a movement of limits that emphasizes individual rights; it essence lies in the restraint of an overbearing governmental apparatus, which is fully compatible with fiscal conservatism.
A moderate Republican morsel, Mr. Roraback fell helplessly into the snare, hotly proclaiming his disassociation from the Tea Party mindset and defaming what Bob MacGuffie of RightPrinciples called Mr. Roraback’s “neighbors.” And then – apparently appealing to the 46 percent “independents” upon whose good will the fate of his election to the U.S. House depends, Mr. Roraback, an American rather than a Republican, rushed the bull, his red cape flapping in the breeze: “Roraback also said he'd welcome help from other Republican leaders in Washington, including House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority leader Eric Cantor. But Roraback, a moderate who has said he won't march lockstep with today's conservative GOP, said he would set the ground rules for any fundraiser that featured a Republican congressional leader."
It may be just a wee bit early for Mr. Roraback to start dictating terms to Mr. Boehner; he has not been elected yet. Mr. MacGuffie and other fiscally conservative Tea Party activists across Connecticut, heaving a great sign, bade Mr. Roraback a hearty good bye: “You just walked out on us.” Ms. Esty, also a moderate and a Democrat now flush with cash since Mr. Donovan has moved on, has now announced that she never believed Mr. Roraback, caught in the snare, was connected to the Tea Party movement.
She’s right about that.
Just a couple of questions: Independents do not bang on doors at election time, nor do they contribute money – the mother’s milk of politics – to candidates when they come’a courting. Republican activists, the much traduced Tea Party members, do both. So does the National Republican Party, mostly conservatives; so does Mr. Boehner.
Who is Mr. Roraback’s milk man? Can he deliver, and will he be willing to finance such an inept campaigner?