POLITICS JANUARY 31, 2008
Sandwiched between delegate-rich behemoths Massachusetts and New York, with a primary that has historically been an afterthought, reliably Democratic Connecticut is still adjusting to its newfound influence on the race for the 2008 nomination. Full of Eastern liberals and moderate Republicans, and lacking large urban centers, this state has more diverse interests and geography than the homogeneous and notoriously well-off exurbs of New York City might suggest. This February 5, the state that has traditionally served only as an ATM for presidential hopefuls has become a legitimate battleground in a tight race for delegates to the national convention.
Delegates: Democrats, 48; Republicans, 30.
Format: Closed, proportional primaries for both parties.
Recent Polls: For much of 2007, Hillary Clinton led the polls for Democrats in the state, with an advantage as large as 27 points in October. The gap has narrowed, however, as coverage of the race has intensified. The "undecided" vote has steadily shrunk, from 16 percent to six percent, and a Rasmussen poll (1/29) conducted in the wake of the South Carolina primary has Obama up 13 points since mid-January and dead even with Clinton at 40 percent.
Like Hillary Clinton, New York neighbor Rudy Giuliani was way in front of most other Republicans in most 2007 polls. But since October, John McCain has essentially swapped standings in the polls with Giuliani, surging to a 42-26 lead over his closest competitor--also from a neighboring state--Mitt Romney.
In-State Fundraising (through third quarter): Barack Obama: $1,590,000; Hillary Clinton: $1,258,000; Mitt Romney: $125,215; John McCain: $96,133.
Connecticut has been a treasure chest of sorts for presidential hopefuls, as voters in the extremely wealthy Fairfield County and southwestern suburbs just outside New York often contribute to big hauls for both parties. Obama, Clinton, and Giuliani have held large fundraisers in the tony town of Greenwich (which has alone accounted for $440,919 in donations), and Clinton returned to the high-income turf for a second fundraiser late last week.
Endorsements: On the Democratic side, Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (by many accounts the most popular public official in the state) are supporting Clinton and the Hartford Courant, the state’s largest paper, endorsed her earlier this week. Obama has the endorsement of the central-western Connecticut Post and popular New Haven Mayor John DeStefano. Ned Lamont, the antiwar Democratic senate candidate in 2006, is Obama’s state campaign chair and has also hit the trail for him in the state.
On the GOP side, long-serving senator Joe Lieberman has endorsed McCain. Though Lieberman appears to have defected from his previous party affiliation, Scott McLean, a professor of political science at Quinnipiac University, believes that his endorsement remains one of the most influential in the state. McCain also recently garnered the endorsements of Republican Governor Jodi Rell and Lieutenant Governor Michael Fedele. Romney, whose state borders Connecticut to the north and east, has yet to make inroads with state party leadership. He did win the Republican endorsement from the Hartford Courant, which cited his record in Massachusetts as “a record of an achiever.”
Demographics: For the relatively affluent population along the New York-New Haven corridor, the choice between the leading Democratic candidates is “kind of a flavor question rather than a policy question,” says one longtime New Haven reporter. The state has traditionally picked insurgent candidates, voting for neighboring son Ted Kennedy in the 1980 primaries and Gary Hart in 1984, and maintains a slightly independent streak. African American and Hispanic voters, making up 10 and 11 percent of the population, respectively, also populate urban centers and are reported to favor Clinton.
Connecticut Republicans in general tend to be more centrist; only around half of the registered Republicans identify themselves as conservative, and Joe Lieberman won his senate seat in 2006 based largely on support among moderates--an ideological terrain that favors McCain. One unique feature of Connecticut is its presence in both the New York and Boston regional media markets, among the most costly in the nation, giving significant name-recognition advantage to Hillary (via New York) and Romney (via Boston).