HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – With public opinion polls showing a tight race for governor in Connecticut, both major party candidates spent the final weekend before the election trying to boost turnout at the polls, and Democrat Dan Malloy received an eleventh-hour visit Sunday from former President Bill Clinton.
“It matters who the governor is,” Clinton told the crowd of about 2,000 people who gathered for a Halloween night rally for Malloy at the University of Hartford.
Clinton said “the shape and speed” of which Connecticut recovers from the recession will depend on who is elected governor. He said Malloy has the experience and expertise from his 14 years as mayor of Stamford to make sure the state grows a more diverse economy that will allow people to have a middle-class lifestyle and empower the poor to move into the middle class.
Clinton’s latest visit to Connecticut comes on the heels of another presidential visit. President Barack Obama, in Bridgeport on Saturday, urged the estimated 9,000 on hand to support Malloy, Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and other Democratic contenders.
Clinton was also scheduled to appear at a rally in Norwalk for Himes, a freshman Democrat who is facing a tough challenge from state Sen. Dan Debicella. He recently stumped for Blumenthal, who appeared at Sunday’s event.
Meanwhile, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley, a Greenwich businessman, spent much of his weekend touring the state with friends, family and fellow candidates in his blue-and-red campaign bus, appearing at rallies, Halloween parades and restaurants.
“I really enjoy this. I just enjoy meeting people,” Foley said Saturday night, after introducing himself to tables of diners at the Flanders Fish Market & Restaurant in East Lyme.
“Even though we have 3.5 million people in this state and 2.1 million registered voters, politics is all very personal, and personal contact is important,” said Foley, dressed casually in jeans and a campaign pullover. “Anyone you can touch, you come in contact with, have an opportunity to answer their questions, you’d be surprised at the conversion rate if they’re not already on board.”
A Quinnipiac University Poll last week gave Malloy a slight edge in the race to fill the job now held by retiring Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell. Among likely voters, the Oct. 26 poll showed Malloy leading Foley 48 percent to 43 percent, with 7 percent undecided. Of those who picked a candidate, 11 percent said they could change their minds before Election Day.
Dan Kelly, Malloy’s campaign manager, acknowledged the race is neck-and-neck and said he expects polls taken in the final hours of the race will show his candidate both ahead and behind in the race. In a written statement sent Sunday, Kelly said Malloy “is in position to win” on Tuesday.
“We have one of the strongest turnout operations that Connecticut has ever seen. Democrats are organized like no other this year, with a smart and professional field operation, including many of the same folks who effectively targeted and turned out our supporters in the primary,” Kelly said.
Kelly said appearances by Obama and Clinton are motivating the Democratic base, but Foley said he isn’t worried about their visits. He said he believes there’s momentum behind his candidacy.
“I think the voters in Connecticut are going to vote based on the issues, and the issues favor Republicans this cycle,” said Foley, who has been running as a successful businessman and fiscal conservative who knows how to fix the state’s economy and address Connecticut’s multi-billion-dollar deficit problems.
Malloy has touted himself as a successful former mayor who helped attract new jobs to Stamford and will replicate his successes statewide if elected governor.
Besides the last-minute rallies and presidential visits, both candidates are flooding the airwaves with political TV commercials. As of Oct. 27, state election documents show Foley has loaned $10.8 million to his campaign while receiving nearly $1.6 million from individuals.
Malloy is the first gubernatorial candidate in the general election to participate in the state’s public campaign financing program. He received $6 million in public funds to spend on his campaign during the general election and $2.5 million for the Democratic primary.
In comparison, Rell raised and spent $4.1 million to win the governorship in 2006.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)