Rep. Chris Murphy won a solid victory over Republican challenger David Cappiello, in what has to be the biggest story no one is talking about. The first-term congressman increased his margin of victory from 13% to 20%, based largely on increasing margins in the cities (New Britain had voted for Murphy by 33% (4,500 votes) in 2006, and 59% (about 12,000 votes) in 2008. He also increased his margins in the increasingly Democratic Farmington Valley, and in the northwest corner of the state. Take a look:
Let’s compare it to 2006, when Murphy won another big victory over Nancy Johnson:
The map doesn’t tell the whole story, as the bigger margins in the cities that were already going for Murphy by 20% or more aren’t represented as having changed. The towns of Morris and Watertown changed hands in Murphy’s direction, while Southbury went for Cappiello.
There was an Obama effect here, as Murphy’s vote totals in many towns were similar to Obama’s. Unlike Sean Sullivan, however, Cappiello found that McCain voters largely stayed with him.
So what happened here? Why wasn’t Cappiello able to break through?
First and foremost, the political climate was dead set against him. Second, Murphy outraised him and outspent him. Third, Cappiello was never able to build a convincing case against Murphy–few of his attacks made any impact. And lastly, Cappiello seemed to have a split personality sometimes. He claimed to be the independent Republican that his moderate record in Hartford would suggest he really is, but held high-profile fundraisers with President Bush and Laura Bush. He was able to raise a good amount of money through these events, but they didn’t help him separate from the national GOP.
In short, Cappiello was a decent candidate, but Murphy ran a strong, smart campaign, and had the strong tailwind of a heavily Democratic year at his back.