Campaigns poised for Tuesday’s primary

For voters hoping for a titanic showdown for seats in Congress with perhaps the balance of power on the federal level on the line, they’re going to have to wait a few months longer because Tuesday’s primary is expected to be a non-event.

Polls will open throughout the state at 6 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m., but neither of the front runners in the only election on Greenwich’s ballot are expected to have to sweat much. Greenwich resident Linda McMahon and U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy are heavy favorites to capture the Republican and Democratic nominations for the U.S. Senate seat being opened by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.)’s retirement.

Polls of the race show Mr. Murphy with a sizable lead over his Democratic challenger, former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz. A poll released last week by Public Policy Polling (PPP) had him with a 17-point advantage and that is a change over a June Quinnipiac poll that had Mr. Murphy with a 30-point lead on Ms. Bysiewicz. But that’s nothing compared to the advantage Ms. McMahon possesses in her Republican primary against former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, who represented the 4th District for 21 years until 2008.

The PPP poll had her with a staggering 48-point advantage heading into the primary. Ms. McMahon easily won her primary for the Senate in 2010 as well only to fall short against Democrat Richard Blumenthal in November. The PPP poll also gives Mr. Murphy an eight-point lead in their prospective showdown in November.

Town Republican Registrar of Voters Fred DeCaro told the Post that he expects a very light turnout. He said that the number of absentee ballots that come in is usually a good indicator of how many people will be coming into the polls and that by this past Tuesday he hadn’t seen any sign there would be a heavy turnout for the primary. Because of that, he said he was hiring fewer poll workers and that there would be only one line at each polling place instead of the more customary two.

“That’s a way to save the town some money,” Mr. DeCaro said. “We are not expecting a lot of people for this. In fact, turnout is probably going to be so low for this that we’re not planning on using the counter for this and will instead hand count the ballots. This is an easy ballot to count.”

Mr. DeCaro said that was done during the presidential primary this past spring and there were no issues. That primary received very low turnout since neither race was competitive. President Barack Obama had no Democratic challengers this year and Republican presumptive nominee Mitt Romney was essentially running unopposed by then as well.

The Post has a full biography of each of the four candidates running in the primary on page 6A.

The candidates that are behind are not about to give up, at least not publicly.

Mr. Shays appeared last week at a weekly coffee hosted by The Darien Times, a sister paper to the Post. He spoke about the election and why he believed he can still pull out a victory. While he has not had any television ads throughout this cycle and Ms. McMahon has had millions of dollars of ads on the air, Mr. Shays said he can win by getting his people out.

“I believe my voters are more energized than her voters,” he said. “I believe her voters are broader… but thin as paper. I believe some people have supported her because they think she wins and I lose, so that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

“I know people who have endorsed her who are voting for me,” Mr. Shays continued. “That may sound crazy to you.”

In recent weeks, Mr. Shays has raised eyebrows with his comments about Ms. McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment. Calling out her spending and campaign tactics, Mr. Shays repeated last week that he had never run against an opponent he respected less in more than 20 years of races.

I don’t respect it at all,” Mr. Shays said of Ms. McMahon’s campaigning. “That’s why it’s going to make it impossible for her to win the general election.”

Mr. Shays also criticized his GOP opponent for getting signatures to appear on the Independent Party line after receiving her party’s endorsement at its May convention.

“What I believe with all my heart and soul is, I am a candidate who has always run as a Republican, not as an Independent,” Mr. Shays said. “Why would someone who got a Republican endorsement then want to set up a party competing with the Republican Party?”

Shays said he’d vote for McMahon if she wins the primary, but would not campaign for her because of her choice to put her name on two lines. “That to me is trying to be too cute times 10,” Mr. Shays said.

Ms. Bysiewicz has sounded a more conciliatory note with Mr. Murphy, saying she would support him if he won the primary. Her campaign manager Jonathan Ducote told the Post that they would have thousands of volunteers across the state this weekend making calls and reaching out to voters in addition to Ms. Bysiewicz’s personal appearances.

“This campaign is about the middle class and who can best stand up for them,” Mr. Ducote said. “Susan is the only candidate in this race who has offered a comprehensive plan about how to hold Washington and special interests accountable. This message is resonating with voters.”

Despite her huge lead, Ms. McMahon’s campaign said it would be working a “get out the vote” effort this weekend to make sure their turnout is there on Tuesday.

“We take nothing for granted and we will have a very strong grass-roots effort getting our supporters out,” Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the McMahon campaign told the Post. “From Friday until the polls close on Tuesday we will be reaching out to 100,000 Republicans.”

Mr. Murtaugh said this was part of the broader effort that’s focused on November with the goal of knocking on 500,000 doors and making a million phone calls to voters. He added that it would be up to “pundits to speculate about turnout” and they were focused on getting voters out to vote.

Mr. Murphy’s campaign said they were also not making assumptions about Tuesday.

“We don’t take anything for granted in this race,” said Ben Marter, communications director. “That’s why our team is out every single day working to win the primary first. But it would be reckless to ignore the general election, which is why we’re building the strongest grass-roots coalition to take on McMahon’s million-dollar attack machine in November.”

In recent weeks, Ms. McMahon has focused her campaign on Mr. Murphy, and Mr. Murtaugh said this was not overconfidence, just preparation for the general election.

“It’s clear that Chris Murphy will be our opponent in November,” Mr. Murtaugh said. “We want to draw a clear line between a career politician in Mr. Murphy whose answer to everything is to vote to raise taxes, and Linda, a successful job creator who would cut taxes for the middle class.”

David DesRosches contributed to this story

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