From NBC/NJ's Tricia Miller
WEST HARTFORD, CT -- Connecticut isn't known as a political hotbed, but this week it heated up quickly in anticipation of its Feb. 5 primary.
Vying for 60 delegates and in a virtual tie here, Clinton and Obama both hit up the Constitution State in the last few days. Clinton was in New Haven for a small roundtable yesterday, and Obama was in Hartford for a huge rally on Sunday. Chelsea Clinton started primary day by bringing donuts to a polling place in New Haven.
Connecticut was considered Clinton country earlier in the race, but polls tightened not long after favorite son Chris Dodd dropped out in early January. Many elected Democrats supported Dodd, who has represented Connecticut in the Senate since 1980, until he dropped out of the race following a poor showing in the Iowa. Since then, their support has been divided. U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro, John Larson, and Chris Murphy endorsed Obama on Saturday. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Comptroller Nancy Wyman, meanwhile, endorsed Clinton. Dodd and freshman Rep. Joe Courtney have said they will remain neutral.
On the GOP side, McCain has held a commanding lead over former neighboring Gov. Mitt Romney in the most recent polls. He has also cleaned up the endorsements of the Republican establishment here with the support of Gov. Jodi Rell and Rep. Chris Shays, Connecticut's only remaining Republican member of the House. Shays serves as chair of McCain's Connecticut campaign with Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent Democrat and himself a failed (Democratic) presidential candidate. Thirty delegates, including three superdelegates, are at stake on the Republican side.
Adam Joseph, acting communications director under Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, said that record turnout is expected for both party primaries today despite pouring rain. Current records for presidential primary turnout were set at 36.8% for Democrats in 1988 and 43.3% for the Republicans in 1980. On Feb. 1, Bysiewicz announced that more than 34,000 new voters registered between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31; additionally, almost 17,000 unaffiliated voters joined a party so they could participate in the closed primaries.
Because the deadline to withdraw from the ballot was Dec. 27, 16 candidates total are in the running. On the Republican side that includes (on the order the appear on the ballot) former Giuliani, Thompson, Romney, McCain, Hunter, Paul, Huckabee, and even perennial candidate Alan Keyes. On the Democratic side that includes Obama, Kucinich, Gravel, Richardson, Edwards, Dodd, Biden, and Clinton. Voters can also identify their choice as uncommitted.