85 Days to Decide: Lamont Aims for Comeback in Connecticut Governor Race

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont greets seniors at a retirement community in Cromwell, Conn., July 27. (AP Photo)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont greets seniors at a retirement community in Cromwell, Conn., July 27. (AP Photo)  (AP2010)

The millionaire businessman who nearly ousted Sen. Joe Lieberman four years ago by positioning himself as the strident anti-war candidate could be poised for a comeback, with polls showing him slightly ahead in the Democratic primary race for governor in Connecticut. 

Ned Lamont's return to the public stage has been somewhat overshadowed by the bare-knuckle Senate contest, in which former wrestling executive Linda McMahon is trying to fend off GOP primary competition with an eye toward taking on state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in the fall. 

With polls opening Tuesday in the state, Lamont is retaining a slim lead in his gubernatorial race against former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy

The latest poll in the race, released by Quinnipiac University on Monday, showed Lamont leading by 3 points, 45-42 percent. Those results, though, put Malloy within the margin of error and suggest the former mayor could be gaining ground in the final hours -- Lamont was leading by 5 points just one week ago. 

Quinnipiac Poll Director Douglas Schwartz said in a statement that the race remained "too close to call." 

Lamont's campaign tone has changed considerably since he ran against Lieberman on an anti-Iraq war platform. In that race, Lamont beat Lieberman in the Democratic primary, but lost to the veteran senator and former Democratic vice presidential candidate after he switched to run as an independent in the general election. 

In the campaign for governor, Lamont is focusing largely on business-friendly proposals and economic issues. He has also been accusing Malloy of handing contracts to firms that contributed to him and made renovations on his home. Malloy, though, was cleared in that case and has fired back by accusing Lamont of contributing to layoffs at his telecommunications company. 

Lieberman has not yet weighed in on the Democratic primary race featuring his former foe. 

The rare opportunity to run for an open governor's seat came after Republican M. Jodi Rell announced she would not seek re-election. On the Republican side, former ambassador Tom Foley is leading Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele in the polls. 

Senate candidates also are competing for an open seat in Connecticut after Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd announced his retirement. 

McMahon has maintained a healthy lead in the polls, but that hasn't kept the race from getting nasty. 

One of her opponents, stock broker Peter Schiff, recently released an ad that repeatedly featured a video clip of McMahon kicking a man in the groin -- it was from her days with World Wrestling Entertainment. 

"Liberal Linda McMahon has kicked Republicans for years," the narrator in the ad says, using the video clip for emphasis. 

McMahon's campaign dismissed the ad. The campaign generally has tried to fend off attacks from her GOP opponents, including former Rep. Rob Simmons, while targeting Blumenthal. 

Blumenthal has come under scrutiny for appearing to misrepresent his military record. But in a contest where Blumenthal enjoys loyal support, McMahon may have to be careful not to alienate the valuable GOP voters backing Schiff and Simmons. 

She recently released an ad that delicately addressed her history with WWE. In it, two women driving in a car debate the merits of professional wrestling -- one says the "wrestling stuff" is not her "cup of tea," while the other informs her that WWE created "500 jobs here in Connecticut" under McMahon's watch. 

The Quinnipiac poll released Monday showed McMahon leading Simmons 50-28 percent. Schiff clocked in with 15 percent. 

The poll of 664 likely Republican primary voters and 464 likely Democratic voters was conducted Aug. 3-8.