Former President Bill Clinton was able to pack the Palace Theater in Waterbury with 2,600 Democratic Party faithful, but as soon as his speech ended they left almost as quickly as they had arrived.
The election in nine days wasn’t the only thing on their minds. They needed to get home and batten down the hatches for Hurricane Sandy.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy took time out from his briefings at the Emergency Operations Center to attend the rally and offered a few words of caution to the audience before putting on his political hat.
“Connecticut is going to be challenged by weather conditions, the like of which we have not experienced in any of our lifetimes,” Malloy told the crowd.
He urged the crowd to go home after the event and asked them to make sure they’ve taken all the precautions necessary to keep their families safe.
Typically, after a rally like the one Sunday, party faithful would be encouraged to get out and campaign for Chris Murphy and former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty.
Murphy’s campaign declined to say exactly how they are handling the campaign in the wake of the storm. They declined to say whether they will be diverting any of their resources dedicated toward television ads to radio or other types of communication where listeners or viewers don’t necessarily need electricity to view.
“I don’t think anyone knows how the storm is going to impact us as this at this point,” Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for the Murphy campaign said. “We’re going to keep an eye on it and safety is going to come first.”
Murphy, who is in a neck-and-neck race with Republican Linda McMahon for U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s seat, barely mentioned the storm in introducing Clinton. He said he’s confident the state is going to pull together and “beat this storm.”
Clinton’s appearance Sunday was moved from Liberty Park, an outdoor venue, indoors to the Palace Theater.
Clinton also hardly mentioned the storm in his 30-minute address.
“We’re coming down to the 11th hour. We’re facing a violent storm,” Clinton said. “It’s nothing compared to the storm we’ll face if you don’t make the right decision.”
Clinton compared McMahon’s economic plan to that of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and said Murphy’s economic plan, including his proposal to “Buy American,” is the right path forward for America.
“Two reasons you should support Chris Murphy. Better jobs plan, and a plan to deal with the debt,” Clinton said.
McMahon held her own rally with small business owners in Watertown. The rally featured former Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chair Sheila Bair, who endorsed McMahon.
State Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, attended the Clinton rally and said she was pumped up by what the former president had to say, but she also said she was headed home to make sure her community was prepared for the storm.
She said the storm will have an impact on the election.
“Everything builds up for the last week of the election,” Bye said.
“To the extent that people don’t go out and go door to door and turn out the vote — it’s going to have an impact,” she said.
Also, a large power outage could nullify some of the SuperPAC dollars spent on television ads. Bye didn’t know how much of an impact that would have on the campaigns.
She said that in 2011, when West Hartford was especially hard hit by the October snowstorm, they used the voter list and went door-to-door checking on individuals over the age of 65 to see if they were okay. She said having people on the ground going door-to-door may help candidates, too.
Matt O’Connor, political director for 32BJ, said safety will comes first. He said they had 200 volunteers out door knocking Saturday, but they don’t plan to send anyone out until after the storm passes. He said they have to figure out if their members are safe before they resume the get-out-the-vote effort.
Former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz said there are backup batteries in the voting machines in case the power is out, and there are paper ballots, so there shouldn’t be any problems at the polling places Nov. 6.
She said the campaigns with the most cell phone numbers will have the best luck getting in touch with people by phone over the next few days. She suggested candidates could start passing out water and canned goods as they campaign if they want to be helpful.
Todd Murphy, a Democratic staffer and campaign volunteer, said this week is the get-out-the-vote week.
“I don’t know how candidates can do that if people are in an emergency situation,” he said, adding that after the 2011 storm it was hard to get a lot of focus on the municipal elections.
Esty, whose husband Daniel C. Esty is the commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environment and part of the emergency center briefings, was the only politician in attendance who didn’t seem to be too concerned about the storm.
“Come storm or come power outage, we are going to do it … Don’t pay attention to Frankenstorm Sandy,” Esty said.