With polls showing about one-third of Connecticut's voters undecided, the three candidates running for governor had plenty of incentive to try to score points at a televised debate this week in which they tossed about such phrases as "biggest hypocrite" and "cheap shot."

Former senator Lowell P. Weicker Jr., running as an independent and holding about a 2 to 1 lead, criticized Republican nominee Rep. John G. Rowland and Democrat Rep. Bruce A. Morrison, who are running neck and neck, for missing House votes last Sunday. Weicker said only 10 House members were absent for the vote on a budget resolution and a supplemental appropriation to pay for U.S. troops in the Middle East. "Two of them are here tonight," he added.

"This is too easy. Lowell Weicker lecturing us about missing votes," an incredulous Rowland responded. "You missed over 1,000 votes in your Senate career, including 300 your last term . . . {while} crisscrossing the country collecting honoraria. You're the biggest hypocrite in the entire United States Senate," Rowland said. At another point, Rowland handed Weicker an empty Diet Coke can as a symbol of Weicker's proposal to have the state seize unredeemed can and bottle deposits, which Weicker estimates at $20 million. They would underwrite bonds to pay for clean-water projects. "Here's a contribution," Rowland said. "You only need 8 billion more cans to get rid of the $400 million deficit."

After Rowland, who at 33 is the youngest of the three, spoke of "the new generation of leadership" he said he represents, Morrison snapped, "There is no question that Connecticut needs new leadership. I'm not sure it's ready for a governor who's 10 years younger than Dan Quayle."

"Cheap shot," Rowland retorted.