With less than 72 hours until Election Day, they came from all over.
An octogenarian from Boston, an activist from Australia and a rock band from North Carolina, as well as several hundred New Haven residents, gathered behind the city courthouse on Saturday night for one of Ned Lamont’s SOM ’80 final campaign stops. Appearing with Democratic gubernatorial candidate and New Haven mayor John DeStefano Jr., Lamont addressed his chanting, sign-waving supporters for five minutes, citing the progress he has made between the announcement of his candidacy and his victory in the August 8 primary to quell doubt that he can overcome Joe Lieberman’s ’64 LAW ’67 bipartisan appeal.
He countered Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent claim that a vote for Lamont is a vote for terrorists and criticized Lieberman for wanting to “stay the course” in Iraq, inspiring “boos” directed at Lieberman from the approximately 300 people in the audience.
“This is a chance for us to change the course of America,” Lamont told the crowd, somewhat hoarsely, as New Haven was his eighth consecutive campaign stop on Saturday.
Lamont linked Lieberman with the Bush administration, questioning why conservatives were actively supporting his opponent.
“Why is Dick Cheney going all over the country campaigning for Joe Lieberman?” Lamont said. “What does he know about Joe Lieberman that we don’t know?”
In a speech to supporters at his campaign headquarters in Hartford Sunday night, Lieberman accused Lamont of sensationalism and said a vote for Lamont would lead to increased polarization in Washington.
“There are some people, like Ned Lamont, who believe the solution is to ratchet up the partisan finger-pointing and point-scoring, and replace one brand of divisive, dysfunctional politics with another,” Lieberman said. “I believe the problem in Washington is bigger than any one person or party, and that the only way we are really going to change things for the better for our country is to end the partisan politics as usual.”
DeStefano was close to home at the rally, half a block from City Hall, but was not the focus of the event. DeStefano jumped on stage, clapped his hands and screamed, “Welcome to New Haven!” Though the crowd responded with applause, the only signs, wool hats and T-shirts in sight were those promoting Lamont.
DeStefano’s campaign spokesman Derek Slap said last week that Lamont’s candidacy has been a double-edged sword, stealing the headlines from DeStefano but promising to inspire a large liberal turnout on Election Day.
After the speech, Lamont said the turnout at the rally was evidence of momentum gaining on his side.
“People know how important this change is,” Lamont said. “They know it’s a really defining election. We started out with a pretty lowly vigil, but I think you [saw] tonight as a real hope.”
The rally also featured a North Carolina band called Maxwell/Mosher. Bassist Darryl White said though his fingers froze during his solo due to the cold, he took great pleasure in using music “to try to do some good.” For the performance, lead singer Tom Maxwell said, he customized lyrics for Lamont.
“Let’s throw [Lieberman] out a second time,” he sang, “vote for Ned Lamont!”
But as the rally took place in New Haven, around 100 Democratic Yale students were supporting their candidates in a different way — by knocking on doors in neighboring congressional districts where races are expected to be close. The canvassing effort began early on Saturday morning with a send-off by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who is expected to win reelection easily.
For some, the adventure did not end until Sunday — more than 50 Yalies stayed overnight, in a student home in Westport and at a motel in Enfield — to continue campaigning the next morning. Eric Kafka ’09, campaigns coordinator for the Yale College Democrats, which co-sponsored the canvassing effort with Students for a New American Politics, said he met a woman in her sixties who had voted Republican in every past election.
“But she was just so convinced that the current administration and Congress were really harming the country that she said she was going to cast the ballot for a Democrat for a first time in her life,” Kafka said. “There are many independents and Republicans who are looking to the Democrats for the first time.”
The Yale College Republicans were not as active this weekend. Only one Yale student, Reese Faust ’10, joined the College Republican bus tour of nearby congressional districts. But Faust said many campus Republicans will be canvassing extensively on Election Day itself.
“We get a higher number of Republicans than one would suppose by the perception of Republicans on this campus,” Yale College Republicans President Alex Yergin said. “We’ve become a lot more active this year.”