Widely considered to be a solidly blue state since 1992, Connecticut has nonetheless attracted attention from both presidential candidates in recent weeks.
Though spending has been limited from both parties, the Democratic Party has focused on mobilizing Connecticut volunteers to assist campaigning in swing states. Meanwhile, close poll numbers have led Republicans to devote more resources than might be expected to Connecticut, which has voted strongly in favor of Democratic candidates in the past three presidential elections.
“We think we can catch people by surprise,” said Brian Farnen, executive director of Connecticut Victory 2004, the state’s Republican campaign organization. “We think that the President’s leadership after Sept. 11 still resonates in Connecticut and New Jersey. The fact of the matter is no one would expect these states to be polling so strongly for the President.”
Bush campaign supporters point to the results of the Quinnipiac University poll released Sept. 30, which shows Democrat John Kerry ’66 leading Republican President George W. Bush ’68 by a six-point margin in Connecticut, as a positive sign for the president’s campaign since polls indicated the margin was as high as 18 percent this summer. The Quinnipiac poll has a 3.6 percent margin of error.
But some Democrats question the relevance of a poll released prior to any of the presidential debates and not long after the Republican National Convention. No major polls of Connecticut voters have been conducted since Sept. 30.
“I’m sure after the debates the margin’s only gotten larger,” Yale College Democrats Vice President Andrew O’Connor ’05 said. “Our sense of things is that Connecticut will definitely go to Kerry.”
The Republican Party has aired campaign ads for Bush on cable television in Connecticut for about a month, and Kerry has since followed suit. Democrats have distributed over 10,000 signs supporting Kerry while the Republicans have launched an aggressive e-mail outreach program to 60,000 addresses in the state.
Republicans have invested more resources into Connecticut campaign efforts than Democrats, with Bush airing more TV ads than Kerry.
But David Krause, federal campaign director in Connecticut for the Democratic Party, emphasized that the Kerry campaign is active in the state — despite the fact they expect an easy victory — resulting in high Democratic voter registration in traditionally Republican communities.
“The Kerry campaign isn’t taking anything for granted,” Krause said. “We’re working with the congressional candidates all the way down to registering voters. But a lot of our efforts here in Connecticut are focused on the battleground states.”
Specifically, the Kerry campaign has Connecticut volunteers work in phone banks and door-to-door canvassing, targeting the nearby swing states of Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Small groups of volunteers drive to these states every weekend to go door-to-door.
“The amount of people coming out in support of John Kerry has just been phenomenal,” Krause said. “I’ve never actually seen such overwhelming volunteer support. It’s amazing how many people will call this office and say, ‘I’ve never done this kind of thing before, but I’ve got to do something about this election.’”
The Bush campaign has mobilized college students in Connecticut under a coordinated effort emphasizing outreach through dormitories, said Connecticut College student Erik Rapprich, state chair of Connecticut Students for Bush.
Many Bush campaign student volunteers will also be active in a “72-hour task force” in the weekend prior to the election, some of them skipping class to assist the campaign either in Connecticut or in nearby battleground states.
“I’ve never seen this enthusiasm before from most college students,” Rapprich said.
Yale student organizations for both candidates are planning upcoming trips to nearby swing states, canvassing in the final days before the election.