The Republican Primary-
There were four Republicans who ran in the 5th District primary. The slight frontrunner (and eventual winner) was 6-term State Senator Andrew Roraback of Goshen, whose 54% Obama district contains much of the rural, swingy Litchfield Hills region. Roraback, a Hotchkiss, UVA, and Yale educated attorney with deep familial roots in the Litchfield Hills (he practices law at his family's firm in Torrington, Roraback and Roraback, which was founded in 1883(!)), billed himself as a "Yankee Republican." He is widely considered a fiscal conservative and a social moderate-to-liberal, favoring spending cuts and fiscal prudence but also abortion rights and gay marriage. Roraback's fundraising was not particularly strong, but he won the state party's endorsement at the CT GOP Convention and had a strong team of volunteers that helped him throughout the primary. Democrats feared that Roraback would win, and a liberal SuperPac craftily ran $200,000 worth of ads in the primary's final two weeks claiming Roraback was "too liberal for 5th District Republicans" in an effort to take down the most electable candidate. Below is a picture of Roraback's State Senate district, along with its demographics and 2008 Obama/McCain vote.
Roraback's main competitors were Lisa Wilson-Foley and Mark Greenberg, both businesspeople. Wilson-Foley, of Avon, held a similar ideological profile to Roraback's, although she tacked slightly to his right in tone in order to create some political separation. Wilson-Foley's campaign was hampered when it was discovered that not only was she using ex-Governor and convicted felon John Rowland as an advisor, her husband's business had hired him, all at the same time as Rowland used his perch as a radio show host to blast her rivals. However, her being from the Farmington Valley of suburban Hartford gave her a natural, Republican rich base of support for votes and fundraising. Wilson-Foley's fundraising was slightly weaker than Roraback's in the 4th quarter, although she had some ability to self-fund her campaign. She had the second most cash on hand at the end of the fourth quarter, doubling Roraback's CoH. Wilson-Foley did end up performing somewhat strongly in the Farmington Valley and, surprisingly enough, in Danbury. However, the accusations of tomfoolery involving Rowland's presence on her campaign team likely did her campaign in.
Mark Greenberg, of Litchfield, ran as a "true conservative" on both fiscal and social issues. Greenberg, a wealthy real estate investor, pumped large sums of his own money into the race and both raised the most in the 4th quarter and had the most cash on hand. Greenberg was the third-place finisher in the 2010 CT-05 primary. Greenberg hammered away at Roraback and Wilson-Foley for being too liberal, but was likely hampered by the presence of another conservative in the race, Justin Bernier. Greenberg swamped the district's southern flank, putting up big margins in suburban areas surrounding Waterbury and Meriden. However, his campaign team's grassroots efforts weren't as strong as Roraback's team's, and he failed to garner any traction in the non-southern ports of the district.
Justin Bernier, of Plainville, likely prevented Greenberg from winning but also hurt Wilson-Foley's chances, as well. Bernier, a veteran and former Congressional staffer, also ran as a "true conservative" and was the second-place finisher of the 2010 CT-05 primary. He cut Wilson-Foley's margins in the Farmington Valley and actually won the towns of Farmington and Plainville, but failed to repeat his strong showing in 2010, as he performed poorly outside of the Farmington Valley. Bernier was the weakest fundraiser of the four Republican candidates, pulling in the least money in the fourth quarter and having the least amount of cash on hand at fourth quarter's end. Below is a table that shows how the four Republican (and the three Democratic) candidates fundraising was in the fourth quarter.
Much to the chagrin of national Democrats, whose $200,000 anti-Roraback buy was expected to severely harm his campaign, State Senator Andrew Roraback won the primary. Roraback took 32% of the vote, with Mark Greenberg clocking in at second place with 27% of the vote. Lisa Wilson-Foley and Justin Bernier finished in third and fourth respectively, just barely finishing over 20% with Wilson-Foley pulling ing 21% of the vote and Bernier coming in last at 20% of the vote. Interestingly enough, the two more moderate candidates, Roraback and Wilson-Foley finished with a combined 53%, meaning that a moderate could have won a one-on-one race with a conservative in the 5th District.
Below is a map that shows the winner of each town's primary.
Key- Red: Roraback (32%) Green: Greenberg (27%) Orange: Wilson Foley (21%) Blue: Justin Bernier (20%)
As you can see, Roraback won every town in his State Senate district and also did well in its surrounding towns. His weakest areas, the district's cities and the suburban towns where Mark Greenberg performed the strongest, are areas he will need to focus on as the general election rolls around. The good news in Roraback's performance is that he will likely over-perform Mitt Romney in his Litchfield Hills based Senate district, an important prediction considering that President Obama will likely narrowly carry or narrowly lose the 5th District. Roraback always put up strong showings in his Senate district. The bad news for Roraback is that one of the two regions he performed weakest in, the district's southern flank, is the political base of his general election opponent, former State Representative and Democrat Elizabeth Esty.
The Democratic Primary- Connecticut House Speaker Chris Donovan, always heavily backed by organized labor, started out as the prohibitive favorite in the 5th District Democratic Primary. Donovan, of Meriden, was well funded and well known in the district's southern flank. At the end of the fourth quarter, Donovan was second in the Democratic primary in fundraising and cash on hand, however, labor was willing to make up the difference. Donovan also won the state Democratic Party's backing at its convention. All was well for Donovan and his campaign until, not so surprisingly (considering the typical scumminess of labor-backed urban politicians), half of his campaign team, many of whom were long time Donovan aides, was arrested by men in black (federal agents) for trying to conceal the sources of some of Donovan's donations. Donovan was never proven to have any knowledge of the conspiracy being run by his campaign staff, but the uncertainty behind the situation left an opening for his two primary opponents, ex-State Rep. Elizabeth Esty (a Lieberman clone in many ways), and rich kid and overall some dude Dan Roberti.
Elizabeth Esty, of Cheshire, is a former one term State Representative with a reputation of breaking party ranks, much like Andrew Roraback. Esty was defeated in 2010 after voting for banning the death penalty, an unpopular vote in her district considering that a home invasion-turned-vicious slaughter in Cheshire made national news, and many locals felt that the death penalty was the only appropriate punishment for the perpetrators. Even though she stood with her party on that particular (and fatal) vote, Esty broke ranks with her party on a few crucial votes during her time in the legislature, including voting against the Democratic budget at one point because it was too fiscally liberal for her liking. Esty and Donovan were known to dislike each other in the legislature, for both personality reasons and because she represented a reform movement in the party, a movement that threatened labor's grip on the Connecticut Democratic party. Many thought Esty was running just to try to take down Donovan, however, she became the frontrunner after his campaign finance mishaps. Esty was well funded the whole way, backed by both interest groups like pro-choice Emily's List as well as fundraising the strongest in the fourth quarter and having the most cash on hand of any candidate for CT-05 in either party.
The Democratic primary's third wheel was 30-year-old Dan Roberti, son of a powerful DC lobbyist and big time Democratic donor. Roberti, of Plymouth, had a resume that was as thick as paper but a monetary backing from interest groups, including a Super Pac run by his father, that was anything but thin. Roberti's fundraising and cash on hand was behind Donovan's and Esty's, but Super Pacs kept him in the race. At one point, late in the race, a poll by PPP (D) showed him narrowly winning the primary. This caused the Democratic establishment in Connecticut to panic, as Roberti was widely seen as easy to attack for a lack of really any sort of practical experience in life to use in Congress. Their worries compounded when President Bill Clinton endorsed him (surprise, surprise, his father was a big time Clinton donor in 2010) two days before the primary. However, Roberti's apparent momentum was a sham; Roberti only carried his home town, losing every other town in the district to either Esty or Donovan. Much to the dismay of Republican strategists in Connecticut, Elizabeth Esty blazed her way to a decisive victory and, in the process, slayed a giant (or a dragon/troll, depending how you look at organized labor) of Connecticut Democratic politics. Esty drew 45% of the primary vote, performing 13% higher than Donovan, the second place finisher, who finished with 32%. Roberti, who had polled on top late in the primary, finished way back at 23%. Amazingly enough, the anti-Donovan vote totaled 68%. My, oh my, how far he fell from grace after his campaign's finance scandal. Esty, by far the most moderate in the CT-05 Democratic field, is the most electable and moderate of the three Democrats, making for a marquee matchup with the also moderate GOP nominee, Andrew Roraback. In a change of pace from the usually polarized races in the last few years, a general election for an important US House seat will feature the two most moderate nominees possible after both sides had a competitive primary election. Below is a map that shows how Esty, Donovan, and Roberti performed in each town in the 5th District.
As you can see, Esty swamped nearly all of the towns in the district, only losing Roberti's hometown of Plymouth, a smattering of random towns in the Litchfield Hills, Sherman, the cities of New Britain and Meriden, and one of New Britain's suburbs. Labor was able to deliver New Britain and Meriden, but, shockingly, was unable to deliver the city of Waterbury, a fairly unionized place. Esty's consistently strongest margins were in the southern flank of the district, one of Andrew Roraback's weak spots. Plus, she was able to drive out Democratic primary turnout in the typically Republican southern flank of the district, her base, something that will prove important for her to do in the general election. Interestingly enough, Esty had some issues in some of the northernmost towns in Roraback's Senate district, even losing some to "possible felon" Chris Donovan, as Roraback once called him, meaning that perhaps Roraback could exploit her issues there.
Partisan Turnout in the 2012 CT-05 Primaries and analysis
For the first time in years, Republicans actually turned out more voters than Democrats did in a Congressional primary in Connecticut. Republicans made up 51.5% of the two party share of total CT-05 primary voters. This is incredibly significant, especially considering the facts that President Obama got to 56% in the 5th District in 2008 and that there was an incredibly competitive US House primary in both parties. Both bases were motivated to turn out, and, surprisingly enough, Republicans turned out at a higher rate than Democrats. This could signal a return to 2004 type levels in Connecticut's 5th, when John Kerry won the seat by a fraction of a percentage point, only a few hundred votes. Roraback and Esty both have the potential to garner some crossover votes, Roraback in the Litchfield Hills and Esty in the Waterbury/Cheshire area (especially in her old State House seat). It's interesting to consider that Roraback was able to squeeze a Republican primary turnout advantage out of Gore/Kerry/Obama towns in his Senate district while Esty was able to pull out a Democratic turnout advantage in Cheshire, a town that voted for George W. Bush, twice. The 5th Congressional District election should be rather close, especially with Mitt Romney having a decent chance to win up ballot in the district. Thanks to their turnout advantage in the primary, Republicans have to feel uplifted about their chances in November, especially considering the presence of a competitive primary in both parties.
Below is a map that shows which party had a higher turnout in each town in the district. A light shade of red or blue means that Republicans or Democrats turned out at a rate of between 50.1 and 55% of the total turnout rate, a darker shade of red or blue means that Republicans or Democrats turned out at a rate of between 55 and 63% of the total turnout rate, and a dark shade of red or blue means that Republicans or Democrats turned out at a rate of between 63 and 100% of the total turnout rate.
For a reference point to judge the above turnout rate map with, here's a map that shows how the towns in the 5th District voted for President Obama and John McCain in 2008.
Andrew Roraback's Keys to Victory
I currently rate the race for Connecticut's 5th District as having the slightest tilt in Elizabeth Esty's favor. Esty is a moderate with a history of being elected (and defeated) in a historically Republican district. She's also well-funded, personally wealthy, and has Emily's List, a deep pocketed pro-choice interest group, willing to spend to help her win in November.
However, Andrew Roraback is not without his unique advantages that could help him take the cake in the 5th District race in the fall. Roraback has a history of being elected to the State Legislature for 9 straight terms, including being elected for 6 terms to the State Senate. Roraback's ~100,000 person Senate district, which overlaps nearly completely with the 5th District, is far larger than Esty's former House seat. Additionally, unlike Esty, Roraback has no history of losing, or coming close to losing (at least in the last decade). Roraback should be able to rack up a huge margin in his Senate district, where he is very popular and where members of his family have lived and practiced law for at least 130 years. The Roraback family name is golden in Northwestern Connecticut, and he should be able to exploit this for fundraising purposes. If Roraback wants to win in November, he's going to have to do a few important things.
- Roraback has to put up a huge margin in Litchfield County, especially in his State Senate district. If Romney comes close, Roraback way overperforming in his district could provide just the votes he needs to pull him over 50%.
- Roraback has to build on his impressive history of pulling together a tremendous team of grassroots volunteers. He'll be outraised and outspent by Esty, but he and his team can definitely out campaign her. That will be key to finding just enough votes, especially from Obama supporters, for him to win the election.
- Roraback's team has to hit the ground running and campaign like there's no tomorrow, from today to when polls close, especialy in the southern portion of the district (Esty's base). Remember, Esty lost in 2010 for a good reason: she was not a good fit for her State House district. They kicked her out once before and Roraback needs to remind them of why (which was her being too fiscally liberal, albeit less fiscally liberal than most CT Dems, and her vote to repeal the death penalty). Roraback voted to repeal the death penalty alongside Esty, before voting against repeal in 2011 after becoming angered by an early release program that he felt was too lenient on offenders. Roraback needs to campaign hard on both the death penalty and on spending reforms, especially in Cheshire, Hamden, and Wallingford (her old district) and the towns surrounding her old district. If he can remind those voters why they kicked her to the curb in the first place, he can take away her home field advantage in those suburbs.
- Roraback needs to make inroads in the Farmington Valley (wealthy areas of suburban Hartford that Justin Bernier and Lisa Wilson-Foley are from) before Esty is able to. While Esty performed well in the Farmington Valley in the primary, that was more because the Democratic voters in that area are not unionists and did not take kindly to Donovan's scandal. If Roraback can sell his brand of fiscal prudence and social moderation/liberalism to the socially liberal and fiscally moderate/conservative voters in Farmington, Simsbury, Avon, and the other towns in the Farmington Valley, he will be able to lock down Romney's voters there and, hopefully, be able to pull in a few Obama voters, too.
- Roraback needs to not ignore the cities. A big reason why Republican Nancy Johnson, who held the seat from the 1994 elections to the 2006 elections, lost the 5th District in 2006 was because the cities in the district felt that she began to ignore their concerns. Roraback needs to squeeze out as much crossover support as possible, and that means making sure he at least makes a small effort to make voters in the cities feel like he cares about them. As a rural politician, his worst performances in the primary came from cities like New Britain, Waterbury, and Meriden. Roraback can't let Esty dominate in the cities. Remember, the cities were a weakness in the primary for both Roraback and Esty. I am not saying he can significantly overperform Romney in the 5th District's cities; I am just advocating that he has a campaign presence there.
- Roraback has to convince the NRCC and national coservative organizations that CT-05 is a seat worth investing in. Remember, Sam Caligiuri put up a disappointing performance in 2010 (although Murphy was an exceptionally strong incumbent). If he wants to win the seat, he's going to have to get some help fundraising or with ads, perhaps from the NRCC.
- Update: If Chris Donovan decides to run as a Working Families Party nominee, or decides to publicly not endorse Esty, that would be a huge boon to Roraback's chances. I had mentioned that that may happen on this site a few days ago, but those thoughts were not taken seriously. It looks like that may happen! http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-donovan-labor-0816-20120818,0,1366956.story
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Roraback needs to hope that Mitt Romney narrowly loses or wins the 5th. If Romney wins the 5th, and Roraback runs a strong campaign, I see no reason why Roraback would lose, especially considering how he should put up a huge margin in the Litchfield Hills around his State Senate district. Remember, Connecticut is a "1% State" if there is one, especially with there being lots of affluence in parts of the Litchfield Hills, the Farmington Valley, and the towns around Danbury and Waterbury. Both polling and primary turnout levels show that Connecticut independents are fed up with the Democrats' attacks on the successful and the affluent. Those turnout levels and polls also show that analysts should expect to see 2004 style Presidential numbers from Connecticut in November, or at least close to those numbers. That means that the 5th District should be very competitive territory for Mitt Romney, and the better Romney does, the better Roraback does.
Hopefully, Andrew Roraback runs a strong, grassroots powered campaign, is able to cut into Esty's base in the towns around Cheshire, is able to put up a huge margin in the Litchfield Hills, and Mitt Romney does well in the 5th District. If those things happen, we'll be calling him Congressman-elect Roraback in November.
UPDATE: Chris Donovan is considering running as a third party candidate or not endorsing Esty at all. That would be a HUGE boon for Roraback. Stay tuned!