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Pressure grows for Bysiewicz to call it a day

Updated 9:25 am, Wednesday, May 2, 2012

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  • Democratic Senate candidate for U.S. Senate, former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, speaks during a debate in Storrs, Conn., Monday, April 9, 2012.  Five Democrats are vying for the party's endorsement in Connecticut's U.S. Senate race to ultimately fill the seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent. Photo: John Woike, (AP Photo/The Hartford Courant, John Woike, Pool / Associated Press

    Democratic Senate candidate for U.S. Senate, former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, speaks during a debate in Storrs, Conn., Monday, April 9, 2012. Five Democrats are vying for the party's endorsement in Connecticut's U.S. Senate race to ultimately fill the seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent.

    Photo: John Woike, (AP Photo/The Hartford Courant, John Woike, Pool

 

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State Rep. Joseph Serra, D-Middletown, who represents Susan Bysiewicz's hometown, Tuesday described her candidacy for U.S. Senate in two words.

"Swimming upstream."

A few hours earlier, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy effectively ensured, barring unforeseen developments, he will walk away from the party's May 12 convention with the nomination to run for Sen. Joseph Lieberman's seat.

At a news conference in East Hartford, state Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, ended his long-shot race against Murphy and Bysiewicz and joined Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman in endorsing the congressman.

The governor, as titular party leader, made it clear it is time for unity, noting that one potential GOP opponent, Linda McMahon, sunk $50 million of her own fortune into a failed 2010 run for Senate.

"This race is going to be tough enough. I think we should get behind a candidate," Malloy told reporters when asked what advice he had for Bysiewicz. "I would hope the (convention) delegates get behind Congressman Murphy. I would hope any other candidates get behind Congressman Murphy."

A Bysiewicz supporter, Serra said the governor's comments will make no difference to the candidate.

"She's a tenacious campaigner. She knows the system," he said. "They're not intimidating her."

Bysiewicz campaign manager Jonathan Ducote said Tuesday's endorsements changed nothing.

"Our plan from Day One has been to go to the primary and let the voters settle this in August," he said. "We have always viewed the conventions as an important step to gain ballot access."

Bysiewicz needs at least 15 percent of the convention vote to qualify for a primary. Failing that, she can circulate petitions to get on the ballot.

Unlike Tong, who trailed in the polls and fundraising, Bysiewicz does remain competitive with Murphy and against the Republicans.

Murphy leads her in a primary by 10 points, according to a March Quinnipiac University poll. Both candidates would best McMahon in November's general election. Bysiewicz narrowly loses to former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays.

In terms of fundraising, Murphy has raised $4.1 million, Bysiewicz $1.9 million.

"The demographics of this state ensure a Democrat will win," Ducote said. "So the question for primary voters is who best shares their ideas and would best represent them in the U.S. Senate."

State Rep. Claire Janowski, D-Vernon -- a convention delegate -- said Tuesday her town committee is evenly split between Murphy and Bysiewicz.

"They've both been around ... They're very well known. They're both very driven and they're both excellent candidates," Janowski said. "Susan has been a staple at the Vernon town committee for many years. And Chris has too because he's worked with Congressman (Joe) Courtney."

Scott McLean, a political science professor at Quinnipiac University, supports Bysiewicz and said there is currently no reason she should end her race.

"Just because an unpopular governor has endorsed Murphy?" McLean said, referring to Malloy's 37 percent job approval rating in last week's Quinnipiac Poll. "C'mon. He doesn't have the golden touch."

McLean acknowledged the voters who turn out for primaries are typically the die-hards who follow the cues of party leaders, which could hurt Bysiewicz's chances.

"The odds are working against her, but I think she should play it out," he said.

Serra, however, was not as certain.

He said it is Bysiewicz's decision to remain in the race. But when asked if he personally supports her efforts to wage a primary, Serra said it depends on her chances.

"Probably not if the numbers are such," Serra said.

When Tong ended his own campaign Tuesday he made a point of saying he was doing it for the party.

"I could have gone on and continued to compete but in the best interest of our country and state and party it was important for me to step aside," he said.

Asked what the Bysiewicz campaign could say to allay fears of a divisive primary, Ducote instead took the opportunity to claim Murphy does not have a plan for the country's woes.

"We committed early on to focus in on the issues," Ducote said. "We believe having a substantive conversation about policy and what kind of Senator any of the candidates would be is an important part of the process."

brian.lockhart@scni.com; 203 414 0712; http://twitter.com/blockhart1