HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) â€” Republican Linda McMahon and Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy spent Monday traveling the state, rallying their supporters to get out the vote for Connecticut's U.S. Senate race, which both predicted will be close.
Meanwhile, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said the state is ready to vote on Tuesday. Only two polling places â€” in New London and Bridgeport â€” had to be relocated because of power outages stemming from Superstorm Sandy.
Merrill said she expects a large voter turnout on Tuesday, despite the storm. Typically, voter turnout in Connecticut for presidential elections is about 75 percent to 80 percent. Nearly 2.1 million people are registered to vote, with more than 100,000 citizens becoming new voters since early September.
"We have seen a real surge of interest in this election in the last six weeks," Merrill said.
An upbeat McMahon told about 70 people at a midday rally with her "Job Creators for Linda" coalition at a manufacturing company in Southington â€” the same location where 14 months ago she kicked off her second run for the U.S. Senate â€” that "we're going to do this" on Tuesday and win the election. The former wrestling executive made numerous stops on the final day before Election Day, greeting Electric Boat Shipyard workers at the gates in Groton during the morning and ending the day with a get-out-the-vote rally in Norwalk.
"I venture to say that the state hasn't seen a ground operation like this campaign is putting forth, which I hope will help many Republicans get elected in the state," said McMahon, adding that she has 14 field offices, manned with volunteers and staff.
McMahon, who lost her first bid for the U.S. Senate in 2010, said she feels better about this year's race and is "cautiously optimistic" about her chances of winning. She said more Democrats have told her this time that they're voting for her. During the final days of the campaign, McMahon has run a TV ad and distributed literature targeting ticket-splitters who plan to vote for her and Democratic President Barack Obama â€” a move Murphy's campaign has criticized as misleading considering McMahon supports Republican Mitt Romney for governor.
"I really feel that we have good momentum going into tomorrow," she said. "I have felt good about that really for the last several weeks. I think we've turned a corner."
Shortly afterward, several hundred people, including unionized workers, turned out for an enthusiastic pro-Murphy rally at Union Station in downtown Hartford where an optimistic Murphy sounded unfazed by McMahon's get-out-the-vote effort.
"I've had some of the best grassroots operations this state has ever seen in my congressional races and this is even bigger and badder and more aggressive than ever, so we're going to have a huge grassroots effort out there tomorrow," he told reporters. "Ours isn't paid for. Ours is people here, that you saw, going out and working hard to bring people to the polls."
The last Quinnipiac University Poll showed Murphy with a six percentage point lead, but McMahon's campaign has argued that the race is closer. Quinnipiac did not conduct a final poll after Superstorm Sandy hit the eastern U.S.
The list of speakers at Murphy's Hartford rally included former University of Connecticut head men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun, who got big cheers when he told the crowd he already voted for Murphy by absentee ballot. He urged the crowd to help get Murphy elected.
"This is a critical time for each and every one of us. This is going to shape what happens for the future, for my five granddaughters and grandson, for my own sons, all of you," he said. "We have to be that village that helps us."
Calhoun spoke of the need to protect women's abortion rights, saying "it's your choice," as well as the need to make affordable health care available for everyone, issues he said Murphy and Obama both support.
Murphy said his final message to voters is about how he's an advocate for the middle class and has dedicated his life to public service.
"I've spent my life running to people to help, and Linda McMahon spent her life running over people to help herself," Murphy told the cheering crowd.
Murphy also crisscrossed the state on Monday, greeting workers in the morning at Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Stratford. He also had stops planned in Fairfield, Bridgeport, Milford, Middletown, Newington, East Hartford, West Hartford and Bristol.
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