Washington – As the presidential primary campaign enters its final stretch, competition for delegates by candidates from both parties has intensified, along with an interest in winning support in Connecticut.
Connecticut’s April 26 primary is usually held too late in the primary season to make an impact on the race. But not this year.
This year there’s plenty of interest in Connecticut by presidential candidates who have rushed to open campaign offices in the state and tapped surrogates for help this week. At least one plans to come to campaign in Connecticut.
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is at an advantage over rival Bernie Sanders in the delegate count because the former first lady has captured the support of most “superdelegates,” party leaders and elected officials selected to vote at a presidential nominating convention who can pick whom to support. Clinton has the support of most of Connecticut’s 16 superdelegates and of most of the rest of the establishment Democrats in the nation.
But Sanders hopes to come into July’s national Democratic convention in Philadelphia with a majority of pledged delegates, a possibility if he does well in the rest of the primaries.
“Bernie can very well close if he pulls an upset in New York,” said University of Connecticut political science professor Ron Schurin. New York holds its primary a week before Connecticut.
After his decisive win in Wisconsin Tuesday, Sanders has racked up 1,027 pledged delegates to Clinton’s 1,279. At stake in Connecticut are 55 Democratic pledged delegates.
“What Clinton has to do is chalk up some victories so she has legitimacy as the nominee, so it’s not just the support of the superdelegates,” Schurin said.
He also said Sanders is likely to receive strong support from the state’s progressives and college students. Connecticut is also a state with fewer minorities than southern states that Clinton was able to win by large margins.
To try to keep Sanders at bay in the state, the Clinton campaign opened an office in Hartford on Monday and another in New Britain on Wednesday with the help of superdelegate Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District.
Esty also held a telephone press conference with Sen. Chris Murphy, another Clinton superdelegate, on Wednesday to bash Sanders for not supporting a lawsuit by Sandy Hook parents against the maker of the Bushmaster rifle used by Adam Lanza to kill their children.
“The day I became an evangelist for Hillary Clinton is the day she decided to be an advocate against gun violence,” Murphy said. “We cannot support a candidate for president who has wavered in the fight against the gun lobby.”
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who failed in his bid for the White House, stopped by a Yale for Hillary phone bank Wednesday to try to shore up support and try to erode Sanders’ popularity with college students.
The Clinton campaign declined to say whether the candidate will make a campaign stop in the state or spend money on advertising.
But Connecticut campaign spokesman Mahen Gunaratna said, “With only three weeks remaining until the Connecticut primary, our supporters are kicking into high gear, hosting phone banks and knocking on doors to turn out the vote.”
PACs and town halls
There’s been a flurry of new action on the Republican side too, where the results of Wisconsin’s primary boosted the chances of an open GOP convention in Cleveland this summer.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich plans to hold a town hall meeting at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield on Friday.
And a superPAC, New Day for America, has come to the aid of the Kasich campaign this week by opening offices in Fairfield, Westbrook and Southington to organize volunteers and establish phone banks.
The PAC reported raising nearly $10 million in its latest filing with the Federal Elections Commission on Feb. 29. A handfuls of high-dollar donors came from Connecticut, contributing as much as $100,000 to the PAC.
State Sen. Tony Hwang is heading the Kasich campaign in Connecticut. Hwang, who did not respond to calls for comment, said in a statement that Kasich is the only presidential candidate with “wide appeal” to Connecticut Republicans.
But Donald Trump has his supporters in the state too, as does Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
“All three candidates have solid support in the state,” said J.R. Romano, the head of the Connecticut Republican Party.
He declined to predict who might win Connecticut’s primary, saying there is no reliable polling data.
But, he said, “Connecticut is going to “be relevant” this year. He predicted the heated rivalry in the GOP camp and the Trump phenomena would result in a large Republican turnout.
Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island also hold their presidential primaries on April 26. But, on the Republican side, only Connecticut and Rhode Island will distribute delegates in proportion to the support a candidate receives. The other states are winner-take-all.
Schurin predicted Kasich might do well in Connecticut because his moderate stance “makes him the kind of Republican that Connecticut always liked.”
“But there are people who are going to say, ‘I’ll vote for Cruz because that’s the only way to stop Trump’,” Schurin said.