Why Dems Should Worry: Connecticut Edition.

Over at Newsweek, Ben Adler describes how the Republican upsets in New York City's suburbs are “an actual bad sign for the Democrats.” I’d actually look a bit farther east to include the results in Connecticut as another reason for concern.

Republicans ousted Democrats in municipal elections throughout the state, picking up seats in Stratford, Trumbull, Monroe, Darien, Guilford and other towns throughout southwestern and central Connecticut. In Stamford -- the state’s financial hub -- Michael Pavia trounced his Democratic opponent to become the city’s first Republican mayor in 14 years.

“With the economy so bad, people are looking for change,” Nancy DiNardo, the state’s Democratic Party chair, told the AP, linking the results to a broader, national repudiation of incumbents. Even so, the results don’t bode well for politically embattled Sen. Chris Dodd, who still trails leading Republican challenger Rob Simmons by over six points.

Less than two weeks ago, Obama himself traveled up to Stamford to attend a fundraising dinner for Dodd, praising his efforts to push for robust financial regulatory reform. But -- as I explained in a TNR piece earlier this year -- Dodd faces an uphill battle to dissociate himself from the deep-pocketed financial interests that reside in his state and shower him with campaign contributions, given his chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee. And a few of yesterday’s local Connecticut races pointed to some of the political challenges that Dodd is already facing.

In Stamford’s mayoral race, for example, Pavia railed against the Democratic incumbent for favoring the financial titans over the town’s small businesses, recalling the kind of criticisms that Simmons has levied against him over the AIG bonus scandal and federal bank bailouts. Simmons, for one, has already taken the opportunity to link 2009 with 2010, blasting Dodd for being his role in the “economic meltdown and its myriad of failed responses” in the same breath that he praised yesterday’s GOP victories in the state.

To be sure, Dodd could still have an opportunity to come back if the health-care bill and robust financial regulatory reform pass successfully. And if his Banking chairmanship makes him an easy target during economic hard times, he could conversely reap political rewards if the economy recovers to the public’s satisfaction next year. Either way, though, it seems unwise to overlook yesterday’s Republican victories in Dodd’s home state as insignificant. In a state that was at ground zero of the financial crisis, with a federal lawmaker who’s tried to guide its economic recovery, local and national concerns can be one and the same.

--Suzy Khimm

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