As Connecticut voters head to the polls, President Barack Obama’s sizable polling lead in the state has led voter turnout efforts to focus on the state’s U.S. Senate race.
In an election that could decide which party wins the Senate majority, Democrat Chris Murphy and Republican Linda McMahon are vying for the seat that will be vacated by Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67, with the latest polling giving Murphy a slight edge. Yale students will also choose between Democratic incumbent Rosa DeLauro and Republican challenger Wayne Winsley in the U.S. House contest for Connecticut’s third congressional district.
Campus political organizations have been working for months to register voters, help students get absentee ballots and sway undecided voters. Today, they will turn to getting out the vote for their respective candidates across the Yale campus.
“We’ll be working on voter turnout of both registered Republicans and unaffiliated registered voters in Ward 1,” Yale College Republicans chairwoman Elizabeth Henry ’14 said. “We certainly hope that people are going to be voting for Romney, but that’s not really our concern right now. We are mainly trying to mobilize Yale students to vote for Linda McMahon.”
The Yale College Democrats have adopted a similar approach, explained Dems president Zak Newman ’13 and Dems elections coordinator Nicole Hobbs ’14.
“At this point most people know they’re voting for Obama and our job is to convince them to also fill in the box for Murphy and other Democratic candidates,” Hobbs said, adding that “of course we’ll also be talking about the President, but the main focus is on winning this competitive Senate seat.”
The Dems’ main priority is to get Yalies to the polls during two-hour canvassing shifts, Newman said, while graduate students the Dems have worked with previously will canvass other parts of the city. Residential college captains will be responsible for making sure that students in their respective college have voted through a combination of door knocking and phone banking, Newman added.
Members of the activist group Students Unite Now (SUN) and the Party of the Left will join the Dems in pulling votes for Murphy, said SUN member Sarah Cox ’15.
According to Murphy campaign spokesman Eli Zupnick, thousands of volunteers will knock on doors across the state today.
“We’ll have people in every city in town,” Zupnick said. “Our canvassers will go out at 9 a.m. and stay out until the polls close. Chris is going to be crisscrossing the state starting even earlier, greeting workers, stopping in at diners, attending democratic town committee meetings and motivating people to vote.”
Zupnick added he did not have a prediction for how the race would turn out, only saying that “it’s going to be close.” Newman, though, said he was optimistic for a Murphy victory, citing what he called Murphy’s strong performance in the debates between the two candidates.
Murphy has eked out ahead of McMahon in the polls after a month that saw them neck and neck. Heading into Election Day, RealClearPolitics has Murphy with a five-point polling lead over McMahon after trailing by nearly a point in mid-September.
Still, Yale College Republicans campaign director and McMahon campaign volunteer Ben Mallet ’16 cited McMahon’s tactic of appealing to Obama supporters as a winning election-day strategy. McMahon’s campaign has released advertisements in recent weeks encouraging Connecticut voters to split the ticket, voting for McMahon even while supporting Obama.
“It’s too close to call right now, but we’ve been seeing trends that make me really optimistic,” he said. “We’re finding a lot of Democrats who say they’re voting for Obama but also voting for Linda.”
Connecticut Democrats press secretary Elizabeth Larkin called the split-ticket strategy “deceitful,” explaining that McMahon would thwart Obama’s policy objectives if she were elected to the Senate.
The McMahon campaign could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
Larkin also weighed in on the state’s house races, saying she was “confident” Democrats would prevail across the state. Specifically in the third district, she said, polling has favored Democratic incumbent DeLauro over Republican challenger Winsley.
But DeLauro campaign manager Jimmy Tickey said the campaign “takes nothing for granted” and will be conducting get out the vote efforts across the district today.
“We’re going to be calling people who’ve said they support us to make sure they’re voting and canvassing to make sure that those last few undecided voters support Rosa and get to the polls for her,” he said. “This is really the final stretch. This whole thing is about to be behind us.”
The Winsley campaign could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
As Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney made their final tours through swing states in the waning days of the election — including in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania — the RealClearPolitics polling average put Obama at a .7-point lead over Romney nationally, much slimmer than his 10.8 polling lead in Connecticut. The New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog gave Obama a 92.0 percent chance of claiming victory tonight based on current polling.
Polls are open in Connecticut from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Students in Jonathan Edwards, Calhoun, Branford, Silliman, Timothy Dwight, Saybrook, Trumbull and Berkeley can vote at the New Haven Public Library, while those in Davenport, Pierson, Stiles and Morse can vote at the Wexler-Grant School.