HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Republican Tom Foley's campaign has begun airing a string of positive television ads during the final two weeks of Connecticut's virtually even gubernatorial rematch, considered one of the most negative elections in the country.
Days after running an ad that portrayed Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy with a Pinocchio nose, alleging he's lied about cutting state spending and other issues, Foley switched gears and began running a more positive commercial called "The Plan." Dressed in a tan sweater, Foley talks directly to voters and promises to lower taxes, keep state spending flat for two years and "make government work better for everyone."
At the same time, Foley's campaign has been running another upbeat ad that features the candidate's wife, Leslie, and their young twins. Leslie Foley speaks about how "every family wants to feel confident and secure" and how "too many Connecticut families feel squeezed." The spot then touts Foley's "pro-growth plan" to fix the state's economy.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Foley said the ads are part of a plan that was laid out months ago. But he acknowledges they come at a good time, when undecided voters who've been bombarded with critical ads about Foley are focusing more on the race and deciding who they trust and like.
"This is just the phase in the election, the last two to three weeks where people want to know what you're going to do," said Foley, a Greenwich businessman. "I think the interesting story is Gov. Malloy is not doing that. People who vote for him, how do they know what he's going to do?"
Mark Bergman, Malloy's campaign spokesman, said "campaigns are more than just about TV ads" and that Malloy has proposed detailed plans to improve the economy, make higher education more affordable and combat domestic violence.
"The governor has been out there talking about not only his record, but he's been talking about what he wants to do over the next four years, how we can keep the progress going," said Bergman, who accused Foley of spending two years "distorting the facts about Connecticut's progress" and not having a detailed plan for the state's future.
Both Malloy and an independent third-party group supporting him have been running ads in recent weeks taking aim at Foley's business record, his wealth and his tax rate. Malloy's last three ads mention Foley's $5 million yacht. One claims "the world must look different" from onboard. Another claims Foley "has gotten rich while hurting working people."
The last ad Malloy's campaign ran touting the governor's record — focusing on his efforts to keep United Technologies Corp. in Connecticut — ran in mid-September.
Douglas Schwartz, director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said Foley's approval rating among voters has taken a hit in recent weeks, likely due in part to the ads. In a poll conducted Oct. 14-20 and released Wednesday, the number of people with an unfavorable opinion of Foley increased from 33 percent on Sept. 10 to 46 percent on Oct. 22. For the first time, more voters have a negative view of Foley than a positive one. Malloy's unfavorable rating is slightly higher, at 50 percent.
Foley said his campaign's internal polling shows his unfavorable rating has climbed but not as high as the Quinnipiac poll.
Early in the campaign, Schwartz said Malloy had an opportunity to define Foley, who narrowly lost the 2010 gubernatorial election to him. About a quarter of voters said earlier this year that they didn't know much about Foley.
"I said at the time people's opinions of Malloy are pretty much engrained. They're not going to change much, but they could change on Foley," Schwartz said. "For a lot of voters, Foley was a blank slate and Malloy has helped define, in a negative way for voters, Foley."
A report released last week by the Wesleyan Media Project found that 79.5 percent of the ads aired in Connecticut between Sept. 26 and Oct. 9 were the most negative of any gubernatorial race. Connecticut was followed closely by Florida, where 79.2 percent of the ads were negative.