Thrown off their last-minute push by Hurricane Sandy both Democrat Chris Murphy and Republican Linda McMahon were working hard this weekend to get out the vote in cities and towns across the state.
Murphy’s fate rests in the hands of the Democratic establishment and unions who have mounted a large effort to get voters to the polls.
Rallying at SEIU headquarters in Hartford nearly 200 members of 32BJ on Saturday, Murphy talked about the amount of money he’s up against in his race.
“There’s a big bank account on the other side,” Murphy said. “But that’s something you guys know a lot about. You guys have been up against some very powerful people over the years.” Murphy was referring to the building owners the union of cleaners must negotiate against.
“On the days in this campaign when I wondered if I could do it—I saw Linda McMahon spend all this money on these ads—I was inspired by what you’re doing,” Murphy said.
McMahon, a self-funder and former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, spent $50 million in her 2010 race against U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and has spent almost as much in this race. According to campaign finance reports, McMahon has loaned her campaign $44.6 million.
“We don’t need all those campaign commercials because we have you in this election,” Murphy told the volunteers who would spend the afternoon door-knocking for him in Hartford and Bridgeport.
Matt O’Connor, political director for 32BJ, said he went door-to-door with his members in Bridgeport and spoke to about two-thirds of the voters identified in their packets.
He said they did run into a few McMahon canvassers, but the two times they did they were sitting on the porches of the homes, instead of talking to the voters at the door.
Despite paying people to help her ground game, O’Connor said he doesn’t believe there was a whole lot of training that went into it based on what he witnessed.
“It’s more effective to have a true believer talk to voters, verses a paid employee,” O’Connor opined.
Unlike 2010, McMahon invested more money this time in building a ground operation and get-out-the-vote effort.
“This is a get-out-the-vote effort on an unprecedented scale,” Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. said in North Haven at McMahon headquarters Sunday afternoon.
He said the get-out-the-vote effort is more robust than it was in 2010 with full-state coverage and 13 field offices.
“My recollection is there wasn’t this amount of volunteer effort and coordination,” Labriola said. “They have a great footprint on the ground and I think it’s going to make a difference.”
Corry Bliss, McMahon’s campaign manager, said he thinks the ground game they’ve built is going to help all the Republican candidates in the state even though it hasn’t really collectively campaigned with any of them.
He said if they’re turning out Republicans then it’s going to help the candidates further on down the ticket from the state House to Congress.
“We really do believe our ground game will help all candidates,” Bliss said.
But McMahon as a self-funder has largely operated as a party of one for most of the past three years.
“I think just like in 2010 the veracity and volume of Linda McMahon’s attack ads have boomeranged on her and they’re starting to work against her instead of for her,” Murphy said Saturday. “She didn’t learn her lesson from 2010 and that’s why I think the momentum is going our way.”
At her North Haven headquarters Sunday McMahon said the momentum is swinging her way.
She said she was at the Veterans Day parade in Hartford where she was told by voters that they intend to vote for her or have already voted for her by absentee ballot.
McMahon’s campaign has been hyper-vigilant about the potential of voter fraud, but Democratic operatives have said it amounts to voter suppression in some cases.
The campaign did withdraw a lawsuit it filed against the New Haven Registrar of Voters.
In its request for an emergency order, the campaign asked the judge to order New Haven to:
• “certify that it has ordered enough ballots for each precinct for the coming election.”
• otherwise “institute security and counting measures in the event that unscannable, photocopied ballots are used.”
• “purge the voter file of individuals that are not eligible to vote in the city.”
The New Haven Register reported that the state Elections Enforcement Commission warned the McMahon campaign about its absentee voter outreach.
Bliss called the whole thing “silliness.”
“We complied with the letter and spirit of the law sending absentee ballots to anyone who voted absentee in the past,” Bliss said.
How Important Are The Cities?
“We need to win the cities, and win the cities big,” Murphy conceded.
But unlike most Republicans, McMahon hasn’t written off trying to get support from the cities.
The New Haven Independent reported that last week she opened an office in New Haven —the same city that gave Gov. Dannel P. Malloy a huge boost in 2010 with 18,613 votes. He ended up winning the election by more than 6,000 votes.
Republicans have basically stopped running for office in New Haven.
McMahon’s office-opening and similar efforts in Hartford and Bridgeport signal that rather than ceding the cities, she plans at least to work at keeping down Murphy’s margin of victory in his urban strongholds. She has also released an ad targeted at black voters suggesting they split their ticket between her and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
“This is an effort in the urban areas that is on the cutting edge,” Labriola said Sunday. “And there’s the potential for very good result in the cities compared to previous cycles.”
Murphy, who currently represents the 43 cities and towns in the 5th Congressional District, needs the suburbs and medium-sized cities to turn out the vote for him too.
The 5th District is one that McMahon won in 2010 with 112,146 votes to Blumenthal’s 110,218 votes. But that’s only if you look at the Republican and Democratic lines. If you add the 3,971 votes Blumenthal received on the Working Families Party line, he swept all five congressional districts.
In 2010, McMahon received 1,945 votes to Blumenthal‘s 13,913 votes in Hartford, she received 3,266 to his 21,324 votes in New Haven, and she received 4,030 votes to his 16,180 votes in Bridgeport.
But Murphy says he too is taking nothing for granted.
“We still have a great organization in the 5th and we’ve melded it with Elizabeth Esty’s organization,“ Murphy said Saturday. “When all is said and done we’re going to have the biggest baddest field operation that this state has ever seen and it’s spread out all over the state.”