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Candidates Crisscross State In Final Push Before Primary

Matt Rourke

Four presidential candidates were in Connecticut over the weekend in an effort to rally support for their candidacies ahead of the state’s Democratic and Republican primaries tomorrow.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent who is seeking the Democratic Party presidential nomination, had the weekend’s largest rally. He gave a rousing hour-long speech in front of thousands of cheering supporters on the New Haven Green Sunday evening. Despite losing last week’s New York primary, Sanders, who was joined by R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, assured the crowd that he’s a leading a populist revolution that cannot be defeated as long as they vote for him.

Sanders said, “On Tuesday there is going to be a very important Democratic primary here in Connecticut. And what I’ve learned in this campaign so far is that when the voter turnout is high, we win. When the voter turnout is low, we lose. So our job on Tuesday is to create the highest voter turnout for a Democratic primary in the history of the state of Connecticut.”

Earlier Sunday, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton rallied her supporters at a much smaller event in a gymnasium at the University of Bridgeport. She was joined by Connecticut’s two U.S. Senators, Democrats Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy. In what was billed as a get-out-the-vote rally, Clinton assured the party faithful that a win in Connecticut would put her well on her way to the White House.

Clinton said, “I’m asking for your help on Tuesday. I would be so honored and humble to have your vote on Tuesday. And I want you to know that if you will vote for me on Tuesday, I will stand up and fight for you all the way to the White House. Thanks you, Bridgeport and Connecticut.”

On the Republican side, Donald Trump stopped in Waterbury and Bridgeport on Saturday. The New York businessman told a packed house at the Klein Memorial Auditorium in Bridgeport that he’s looking for a big win in Connecticut like the one he had in New York last week.

“On Tuesday it’s so important, you are going to get all your friends and go and vote. And that’s when you are going to look back, and I say this all the time, and I mean it. So you are going to look back at your vote and you are going to say that was the single greatest vote I ever cast. You are going to say the greatest vote I ever cast was that Tuesday I watched Donald Trump because that’s when our country started winning again and being great again.”

Trump’s Republican rival, Ohio Governor John Kasich had a town hall at Glastonbury High School on Friday evening. He urged about a thousand supporters there to vote for him because can still get delegates even if he doesn’t win the state’s primary. Kasich says a good showing in Connecticut would make him more appealing at the Republican convention in Cleveland.

“So what can you do for me, make sure you vote and allow me to win delegates in the district in which you live. So I can go to the convention in a strong position,” Kasich urged.

According to the latest Quinnipiac University Poll released last week, Kasich is polling at 28 percent among likely Republican voters in Connecticut. Trump is polling at 48 percent. Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, who has yet to make a campaign appearance in the state, is polling at 19 percent.

On the Democratic side, the poll shows Clinton leading Sanders by nine points: 51 percent to 42 percent among likely Democratic voters.

Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill says as of last week, nearly 77,000 people had registered to vote in Connecticut since the beginning of the year. That’s almost as many as registered before Barack Obama’s first election in 2008. Most of the newly registered, about 37,000, signed up as Democrats. Another 23,000 signed up as unaffiliated, while about 17,000 signed up as Republicans.

Only those who are registered as Democrats or Republicans can vote in tomorrow’s primary.

The deadline for new and unaffiliated voters to register in person to take part in the primary is at noon today.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.
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