The candidates in Connecticut's Fourth Congressional District have their preferences. Democrat Diane Farrell likes the poll that has her 7 percentage points up; nine-term Republican Rep. Christopher Shays prefers a sampling that says he's leading by 9. Farrell touts the endorsement she copped from the New York Times (long a Shays fan); Shays the ones he got from the New York Daily News and the local Bridgeport Post.
But as the hours to election day tick down, all of that means little in a race that political observers like John Orman of Fairfield University say is a dead heatand may not be decided by Tuesday night.
"It's too close to call, though I'm leaning toward Farrell," Orman said Monday morning. "Farrell by 500 votes and then an automatic recount."
In a district where Farrell, who came within 4 percentage points of ousting Shays two years ago, has made the incumbent's support of the Iraq war a centerpiece of her challenge, the candidates remain locked in a combative contest. Farrell, who wants to be the first Democrat since the late 1960s to represent the district, has not been able to parlay her antiwar platform and effort to turn the race into a referendum on President Bush into a sure win. And Shays, a moderate-to-liberal Republican with a deep well of respect among constituentsespecially pre-Iraq warhasn't put distance between himself and Westport's former first selectwoman by campaigning on experience and seniority.
What will move the small percentage of undecideds? It won't be Democratic Sen. John Kerry's recent mangled "joke" about the military, or the conviction and sentencing of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, says Gary Rose, chairman of Sacred Heart University's government and politics department.
"The outcome of this election is being conditioned by the war itself and the politics of the Bush administration," Rose said.