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Hartford - Connecticut candidates are spending the final days before Tuesday's primary making sure those few, coveted voters who are willing to cast ballots in a summertime election will show up at the polls.
With voter turnout expected to be around 30 percent, the campaigns are focusing on those registered Republicans and Democrats with a history of voting, such as "super prime" voters who have voted in the last three or four elections.
"It's getting easier and easier to target more and more," said Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.
Besides relying on detailed phone lists of active voters, Merrill said she's seen campaigns bypassing traditional forms of media to get their message out and using social media, such as Twitter, to connect one-on-one with potential supporters.
Registered Republicans statewide can cast votes Tuesday in at least five primaries, depending on the districts where they live. Democrats can vote in at least 18 primaries.
There are Republican and Democratic primaries for the open U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Democrat; GOP and Democratic primaries for the hotly contested, open 5th Congressional District seat; and a Republican primary for the 2nd Congressional District seat. There are also primaries for 15 legislative seats, a probate judge and two registrars of voters.
Merrill said one positive sign for voter turnout could be a recent influx of new voters. Since Jan. 1, 57,474 have registered, for a total of 1.9 million. She said 12,000 of those new voters signed up last month. Among the new voters, 18,659 registered as Democrats, 11,553 registered as Republicans, and 26,004 registered as unaffiliated. Party rules prevent unaffiliated voters in Connecticut from voting in primaries.
Corry Bliss, campaign manager for Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon, said the former wrestling executive's campaign has spent months identifying people who plan to vote for her in the primary, as well as the general election, should she defeat former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays. He said they're now in the final days of carrying out their plan and turning out supporters.
"We feel good about what we've been doing," he said. "Connecticut has never seen a grassroots effort like this."
Bliss said the campaign planned to connect with about 100,000 registered Republicans between Friday and Tuesday.
Besides phone calls, door-knocking and candidate visits to local fairs, the Shays campaign has been sending out emails about newspaper endorsements, and it even made a tongue-in-cheek video featuring scenes from the movie "Rocky" that urges viewers to make history, ignore the polls and political pundits who say McMahon is the favorite, and "vote for a Republican who can take back Connecticut." The Shays campaign is also using a new technology called "qwips," which are audio messages from Shays sent to supporters via Twitter, email, and Facebook.
"It's another way to personally touch voters," said Amanda Bergen, Shays' campaign spokeswoman.
McMahon has taken the unusual approach before the GOP primary to focus more attention on a potential general election foe than Shays. Her campaign has targeted U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, the Democrats' endorsed candidate for the Senate, who faces a primary challenge from former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz. McMahon has been running a TV ad criticizing his congressional record.
"I'm not running ads against Linda McMahon right now. Linda McMahon is running ads against me. My focus is on winning the primary," said Murphy, when asked about McMahon's tactics as he greeted workers at the gates of the Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton.
Murphy has made a point to campaign in the final days in eastern Connecticut, traditionally a political stronghold for Bysiewicz, accompanied by 2nd District U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney.
"Joe Courtney is a superhero down here and his support goes a very long way in the primary and goes just as far in the general election," Murphy said.
Murphy also planned a rally Sunday in Manchester with Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
Jonathan Ducote, Bysiewicz's campaign manager, said the campaign has been running phone bank operations at locations around the state every day over the past week. Campaign workers have also been calling and identifying supporters and encouraging them to go to the polls, as well as overseeing a door-knocking operation.
Lori Pelletier, secretary-treasurer of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, said organized labor expects to be a strong force on Primary Day. Union homes, she said, represent about 13 percent of Connecticut voters. On Tuesday, she predicted they'll comprise about 25 percent of the primary voters.
Pelletier expects the effort will make the difference, especially in the 5th District, where 18,000 union families live. Labor is backing Democratic House Speaker Chris Donovan, whose campaign has been shadowed by a federal investigation into an alleged scheme to hide the source of campaign contributions.
Donovan is in a three-way primary with former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty and public affairs representative Daniel Roberti.
"We have a ground game most people don't for a primary. We're doing mail. We're talking to them in their shop, in their worksite. They can't do that," Pelletier said. "We're confident our program works."