Hugh McQuaid Photo
Former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz (Hugh McQuaid Photo)

In the most recent poll on the U.S. Senate race, Susan Bysiewicz trailed Democratic Party endorsed candidate Chris Murphy by 17 points. But with just four days left before the primary, Bysiewicz says she doesn’t put much stock in polls.

Unlike the complicated race for the 5th district congressional seat where the results of Tuesday’s primary are anyone’s guess, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy and former WWE CEO Linda McMahon are clear front runners to win their primaries in the U.S. Senate race.

The two candidates have focused recently on criticizing each other and have largely ignored their inter-party challengers. But even if Murphy has directed his attention at McMahon, the former secretary of the state is not counting herself out of the race just yet.

“I’m planning on winning the primary,” Bysiewicz said after a Friday campaign stop at the Hartford Hilton.

A recent survey of 771 likely Connecticut voters released by Public Policy Polling Aug. 1 put her chances at slim to none.

“With the primaries two weeks away, it is nearly impossible for anyone but Murphy and McMahon to emerge victorious,” the PPP press release announcing the poll results states.

But public polling doesn’t faze Bysiewicz.

“I think [the chances] are good. If everyone believed the Quinnipiac polls, Ned Lamont would have been the Democratic candidate for governor. So the only poll that counts is the one that’s done on the 14th,” she said.

Nearly every poll on the 2010 gubernatorial contest —  including internal surveys paid for by the campaigns — showed Gov. Dannel Malloy losing the primary. Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior communication adviser, recently recalled that even in the week leading up to the primary, not a single poll showed Malloy winning the election. But he went on to defeat Lamont by 16 points.

It’s the sort of upset Bysiewicz is counting on now. When asked about the likelihood of such an outcome, she points to a history of winning elections people had expected her to lose. In her first run for state representative, Bysiewicz lost the party endorsement to Anthony Marino, the former mayor of Middletown, but she received enough support from delegates to force a primary.

“At that point if you asked any insider, they’d say ‘Oh, he’s got the inside track. Everybody knows who he is.’ But I’m a very energetic campaigner and I knocked on 5,000 doors and won the primary by 73 percent of the vote, then went on to win in the general election,” she said.

Bysiewicz again lost the Democratic party endorsement on her first run for secretary of the state. Again she emerged victorious after a primary election and went on to win the general election.

“To me, primaries are about finding the friends that you need to make it happen,” Bysiewicz said.

But Murphy has been making friends as well. Throughout the primary race he’s pointed to endorsements from progressive advocacy groups and prominent politicians.

“Almost without exception the legislators that have worked with Susan Bysiewicz and I, state legislators, members of Congress, the attorney general, now Senator Blumenthal, have chosen me to be the next senator,” Murphy said during a debate in May.

Ben Marter, Murphy’s campaign spokesman, said they’re counting on the coalition of supporters they’ve built to get voters out to the polls Tuesday.

“Chris has built an extraordinarily strong coalition of grassroots activists across the state who will be working hard to get Chris’s supporters out to vote,” he said.

Even if the Public Policy Polling believes Murphy’s victory over Bysiewicz is a near-certainty, Marter said the campaign is taking nothing for granted. The Murphy team has been out day and night knocking on doors and calling voters, Marter said.

The Bysiewicz camp is also in full swing heading into the last days of the primary. The candidate has a handful of events over the final weekend. She’s marching in parade in Hartford Saturday and attending meet and greets with seniors on Sunday.

Bysiewicz says she enjoys campaigning and has been getting enough sleep to keep up a rigorous schedule. She’s been going easy on the caffeine though.

“Trust me, you only want me with one cup of coffee a day because I’m already driving my staff crazy. Stop laughing so hard,” she told her driver who was giggling nearby.

Bysiewicz is well-known as an aggressive campaigner, something the PPP speculated may have hurt her in this year’s primary race. Pollsters surmised that that Democrats are upset with Bysiewicz over her refusal to pull an inaccurate TV ad attacking Murphy.

The ad incorrectly stated that Murphy had received more contributions from hedge fund managers than any other Democrat in Congress. Despite her acknowledgement that it was inaccurate, the ad was allowed to air for a week.

Following a debate in July, Murphy said he’d never seen anything like the campaign’s refusal to stop airing the 30-second TV spot.

“I’ve never seen a campaign come out and admit that the central claim in an ad is a fiction, then not be willing to pull the ad. If Susan is continuing to insist on running the ad it reflects a denial of reality that is both sad and a little frightening,” he said.

The ad was eventually pulled, but Bysiewicz consistently defended the premise of the commercial which was to point out that Murphy has received significant financial support from Wall Street donors and has voted for their interests. 

Bysiewicz has made Murphy’s connections with Wall Street a central theme in her campaign. For more than a year, she’s been referencing a 2010 vote in which Murphy voted against legislation that, among other things, changed the tax treatment of carried interest, which is the main source of income for hedge-fund managers.

Murphy, who said he voted against the bill because of other provisions, defends his voting record on Wall Street reform. He said Bysiewicz’s efforts to paint him as in the pocket of hedge fund managers have failed to gain traction.

On Monday Murphy said he was feeling good about his chances in Tuesday’s primary. But like Marter, he wasn’t willing to take a win for granted.

“The polls move fast in primary elections so I’m not going to celebrate anything until next Tuesday,” he said.

Should he win, Murphy said he doubts Bysiewicz’s primary attacks will impact him negatively in the general election.

“I don’t think anybody’s been listening to Susan’s attacks for the last year and a half, so I’m not sure they’re going to listen to them after Tuesday either,” he said.