With recent public opinion polls showing him trailing by double digits, including low favorability among women, Republican candidate for governor Bob Stefanowski was determined to show a softer side. His campaign was releasing a new ad playing off the barrage of attacks from Gov. Ned Lamont\u2019s re-election campaign casting his views on issues such as abortion rights and gun safety as extreme. In the spot, Stefanowski is seated on a couch with his two daughters who trade pleasantries about their father. \u201cYou're extremely smart,\u201d one daughter says. His other daughter later tells him: \u201cYou\u2019re extremely tall.\u201d His wife, Amy, also makes an appearance to tell her husband he\u2019s extremely handsome. The spot ends with the GOP nominee for governor saying: \u201cI\u2019m Bob Stefanowski and I\u2019m extremely embarrassed to approve this message.\u201d The ad seeks to paint a picture of the corporate executive from Madison that he hopes will resonate with voters, particularly female voters, in November. \u201cIt shows a little bit of a lighter side and that I do care about family and that I do care about women\u2019s issues,\u201d Stefanowski said,\u00a0seated in the back seat of a car one recent afternoon on his way to meet Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who had come to stump for him in Greenwich.\u00a0 Youngkin, who is raising his national profile ahead of a possible 2024 presidential run, is popular among Connecticut Republicans, Stefanowksi said, particularly along Connecticut\u2019s Gold Coast where the Virginia Republican was headlining a fundraiser for Stefanowski after the two hosted a meet-and-greet at Caren\u2019s Cos Cobber, a local restaurant in Greenwich known for attracting a Republican clientele.\u00a0 When Stefanowski reached out to Youngkin about coming to Connecticut, he envisioned a rally in Fairfield County, an area where he said his campaign hasn\u2019t got enough exposure, but Youngkin requested a local diner.\u00a0 \u201cI\u2019ll be honest I\u2019ve got work to do in Fairfield County,\u201d Stefanowski said. \u201cThere\u2019s a lot of anti-Trump sentiment down here that might hurt us with suburban women.\u201d Lamont\u2019s repeated attack ads \u201chammering\u201d Stefanowski as a threat to abortion rights has contributed to the gender divide seen in surveys on the governor\u2019s race, Stefanowski said. In a recent CT Insider\/Channel 3 Eyewitness News\/Western New England University poll, 12 percent of respondents, for instance, identified abortion as the top issue they care about this election cycle. Lamont holds a 15-point lead over Stefanowski, according to the poll. He said his own internal polling shows a much closer race but also indicates he needs to make up ground with women.\u00a0 \u201cOur polling would show that I need to do better with women as well. It\u2019s not nearly the gap that the public polls show,\u201d Stefanowski said.\u00a0 White suburban women helped propel Youngkin to victory last year over former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe. In his campaign, Youngkin presented himself as a relatable suburban dad and centered on education issues, including vowing to give parents more control over what children learn in school. He was also careful to walk a fine line in his connection to former president Donald Trump, who led suburban white women in Virginia to abandon the party in 2020. Could Youngkin\u2019s success in Virginia be emulated here in reliably blue Connecticut? Stefanowski thinks so. Lamont, however, had different thoughts. "If I was a voter in Virginia I might say \u2018governor, come back and govern. You\u2019ve been in office for nine months,'" Lamont said Friday. Earlier this month, Stefanowski and his running mate, state Rep. Laura Devlin of Fairfield, unveiled a so-called parental bill of rights that includes many of tenets embraced by Youngkin such as giving parents more control over school curricula and banning transgender athletes from cisgener girls sports.\u00a0 \u201cIt\u2019s interesting the parental bill of rights, what everybody jumps to is transgender athletes, which that\u2019s part of it, but there\u2019s nine elements to that,\u201d Stefanowski said. \u201cI personally don\u2019t think there\u2019s anything extreme in there.\u201d\u00a0 Greeting Youngkin outside the Cos Cobber, Stefanowski presented him with a Stefanowski-Devlin fleece vest \u2013 Youngkin\u2019s signature garment. \u201cNext time you\u2019re on TV, I want to see you wear it,\u201d Stefanowski quipped.\u00a0 In an impromptu speech to a small crowd gathered in the parking lot outside the restaurant Youngkin said Republican governors have outperformed Democratic governors on issues such as economic growth, learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic, crime and public safety. Lamont countered Friday, pointing to the recent polls and adding "I hope it's a reflection of the fact people are feeling more positive about the state of Connecticut." He pointed to his successes in the state's improving fiscal situation and increasing jobs. Youngkin, who like Stefanowski was a businessman before running for public office, criticized Democrats over many of the same issues Stefanowski has targeted Gov. Lamont over \u2013 crime, inflation, \u201cparents being pushed out of their children\u2019s lives.\u201d He said he hoped his endorsement of Stefanowski would signal to Connecticut voters "there\u2019s a path to victory that looks so much like what we saw in Virginia.\u201d The two men, both towering well above 6 feet, then made their way inside the Cos Cobber to mingle with the regular clientele, including Dylan Howard, editor-in-chief of the National Enquirer, and invited guests such as Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo and state Sen. Ryan Fazio.\u00a0 Approaching a booth where two elderly couples were seated, Youngkin introduced himself and said he\u2019s there to support Stefanowski, Connecticut\u2019s next governor. One of the couples said they now live in Florida because Connecticut has become unaffordable. \u201cWe have a lot of people in Connecticut that live here their whole lives, then in the later years, they move down to Florida avoid the taxes,\u201d Stefanowski said. \u00a0 A few minutes later the men were ushered out the door to the fundraiser \u2013a task that Lamont, with his vast wealth, doesn\u2019t have to worry much about. "I'm happy I'm having a fundraiser tonight, but he doesn't have to take five hours out of his schedule to drive down to Greenwich to raise money," Stefanowski said. "That's a big advantage for him." Columnist Dan Haar contributed to the reporting of this story.