Days before primary, Senate candidates on different paths

Washington — In the countdown to Tuesday’s primary, Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy and Republican Linda McMahon have stopped bashing each other to concentrate on their base, while underdogs Susan Bysiewicz and former Rep. Chris Shays are making a last run at undecided voters.

Tim Murtaugh, McMahon’s campaign spokesman, said volunteers are putting aside lists of independent and unaffiliated voters who can’t vote in Tuesday’s party primaries to concentrate on registered GOP voters. He said volunteers hope to reach 100,000 Republicans, about a quarter of the 411,062 registered GOP voters in Connecticut, “and ask them to come out and support us.”

“The entire operation is geared up towards Tuesday now,” he said.

As McMahon’s volunteers — Murtaugh says the campaign has 38,000 — staff phone banks and knock on doors, the candidate will make a few public appearances and visit with loyalists.

She plans to meet with volunteers in North Haven, Cromwell, Norwalk and Farmington during the weekend and on Monday.

McMahon also plans to attend the Moosup VJ Day Parade, the Lebanon County Fair, have lunch and breakfast with supporters and wave campaign signs during Monday’s rush hour in West Hartford.

Murphy’s campaign hopes to reach about 150,000 of the 720,161 registered Democrats in the state over the weekend.

The Democratic lawmaker is also using his advantage as an incumbent to try to win Democratic votes, making campaign stops with fellow Democratic Reps. Jim Himes, from the 4th District, and Joe Courtney, from the 2nd, and running a television ad that feature Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., through Election Day.

Murphy hopes delegation members join him in get-out-the-vote rallies in Bridgeport, New Haven and New Britain Saturday. He’s already won Blumenthal’s commitment to join him in a rally in Manchester Sunday.

Vince Moscardelli, a University of Connecticut political science professor, said he doubts “too many people are on the fence” this late in the race.

“These last minute efforts really become about mobilizing the people who support you,” he said.

He also said primaries “are often turnout games” that can affect results.

Turnout is expected to be low on Tuesday, fewer than 25 percent of Connecticut’s Democratic and Republican primary voters are expected to go to the polls.

That may help Bysiewicz and Shays, but probably not enough.

Bysiewicz, a Democrat who hopes to best Murphy, plans a number of campaign stops in Hartford, West Haven and New Haven over the weekend, concentrating on heavily populated areas with high numbers of Democratic voters.

Her campaign has 40 call centers, and she will be relying on them heavily.

“We’re trying to make our final push (on the phone),” said campaign spokesman Jonathan Ducote.

Facing McMahon in the GOP primary, Shays will send his volunteers to campaign for him in train stations in Fairfield and New Haven counties this weekend.

Shays, who represented the 4th Congressional District for 20 years, had tentative plans to visit Watertown and several other towns in the 2nd District Saturday, an area where he’s least known. He also hopes to visit Danbury and other places in western Connecticut.

Shays also plans to visit as many polling places as he can on Election Day, although federal law will keep him a distance from the ballot boxes.

Although Murphy and McMahon are confident they’ll win their party primaries and are considered front-runners, their last-minute efforts are prudent, said Gary Rose, chairman of the political science department at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.

That’s because primary voters will loyally vote for a candidate again in the general election in November.

Rose predicted that Murphy and McMahon will capture their party’s nomination “in a landslide.”

But he said Bysiewicz and Shays have good reasons for campaigning until the last minute.

“In Shays’ case … he truly believes an upset is possible,” Rose said.

The professor said Bysiewicz continues to run because she may have her eye on another political office in the future, perhaps a congressional seat.

“She’s running for something else right now,” Rose said.