With two weeks left until the state’s primary, Connecticut is technically still up for grabs in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. But with Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry ’66 holding a wide lead in statewide polls, Connecticut voters should not expect candidates to devote much energy to the state before March 2.
Kerry, who earned the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro yesterday, has become the heavy favorite among Connecticut voters as he has risen to the top of a once-crowded field of candidates to become the front-runner for the nomination, several local Democrats said. And with nine other states holding contests on “Super Tuesday,” Connecticut is likely to earn little attention when its voters go to the polls on March 2.
With Wisconsin’s primary today widely viewed as a make-or-break contest for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean ’71, Kerry’s only major competition on March 2 may be North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. But due to Connecticut’s proximity to Kerry’s home state and its relatively small number of delegates compared to other Super Tuesday states like California, New York and Ohio, neither Edwards nor Dean is expected to mount a serious challenge to Kerry here.
University of Connecticut poll director Ken Dautrich, an expert on Connecticut politics, said the state’s voters are overwhelmingly choosing Kerry because of their belief that he has the best chance of defeating President George W. Bush in November — leaving little reason for the candidates to devote their limited time or money to Connecticut in the days before Super Tuesday.
“They’d be nuts if they came to Connecticut,” Dautrich said. “If they came to Connecticut, there’s something wrong with their campaigns.”
A poll released by UConn’s Center for Survey Research and Analysis on Jan. 30 showed Kerry leading the field with 43 percent of likely primary voters supporting the Massachusetts senator. But the Jan. 30 poll was commissioned before Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 and former Gen. Wesley Clark left the race, and Dautrich said Kerry’s lead in the state has likely increased with his victories in 14 of the nation’s first 16 contests.
In the Jan. 30 poll, Lieberman was in second place in Connecticut with 18 percent of the vote, followed by Dean, Edwards and Clark.
DeLauro, who endorsed Kerry yesterday in a statement issued with fellow Connecticut Rep. John Larson, had previously been a strong supporter of Lieberman in his bid for the presidency. But with Lieberman’s exit from the race on Feb. 3, DeLauro said Kerry’s “demonstrated record of leadership” had earned her endorsement.
“Senator John Kerry has a bold vision for America,” DeLauro said in a statement. “He will stand up to the special interests that have taken over the Bush administration, and he will fight for the hardworking families of this country.”
DeLauro is a “superdelegate” to the Democratic National Convention in Boston, meaning that she is permitted to freely cast a vote for the presidential nomination in July regardless of the primary results. In total, 49 of the state’s 61 delegates to the convention will be up for grabs on March 2.
On campus, Josh Picker ’04, who heads Yalies for Dean, said his group’s members were still actively campaigning for the former Vermont governor, even as they wait to see what he will do after the results come in today in Wisconsin. Support for Dean on campus has been less vocal since last fall, when Dean drew 1,000 people to a rally and his supporters hosted a “Howard Dean Visibility Day,” but Picker said a sizable group of core supporters remained hard at work for the former governor.
“The Dean campaign is still the only campaign that has any sort of ground presence in Connecticut,” Picker said. “We still very much believe he is the best candidate.”
With Connecticut largely considered a Democratic state when it comes to presidential politics, Connecticut is also unlikely to be closely watched in the general election. But New Haven Republican Town Committee chair Richter Elser ’81, who hopes to challenge DeLauro for her House seat in November, said Republicans in the state — which was last won by a G.O.P. candidate for president in 1988 — were still waiting until the Democratic nominee was selected to get involved in the presidential race.
“Most people are laying low, because what is really bothering Connecticut Republicans is the situation with the governor,” Elser said, referring to the federal and legislative investigations into allegations of misconduct surrounding Republican Gov. John G. Rowland.