NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Connecticut, in the back yard of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (search), is taking a back seat to other states in Tuesday's Democratic Party presidential primary.
As part of the "Super Tuesday" (search) slew of primaries, which feature the big prizes of New York and California, candidates are not bothering to court Connecticut much.
Kerry has a campaign office in Hartford and three paid staffers. The other main contender, South Carolina Sen. John Edwards (search), is relying on an all-volunteer operation in Connecticut.
Only one candidate still in the race, the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York, has campaigned in the state at all this year. Other candidates on the ballot who are still in the race are Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Lyndon LaRouche of Virginia.
Kerry is thought to have an advantage because of his higher name recognition in Connecticut and his recent wins in most other primaries.
Edwards has "no grand illusions" about his chances in Connecticut, said Joe Courtney, his campaign coordinator for the state.
"I think he'll make a respectable showing, but this is John Kerry's backyard, so I don't think anyone is going to be unrealistic about things," Courtney said.
Kerry supporters have held rallies in the state and have organized phone banks to encourage Democrats to go to the polls, said communications director Judy Reardon.
"John Kerry is not taking any vote for granted," Reardon said.
Connecticut has about 630,000 registered Democrats. Unaffiliated voters have until noon Monday to change to the Democratic Party so they can vote in the primary.
Connecticut has 61 delegates and alternates to the Democratic National Convention. Twelve are so-called "superdelegates" who can support any candidate they choose, while the remaining 49 are doled out to candidates who get more than 15 percent of the vote in any district, said Leslie O'Brien, executive director of the Connecticut Democratic Party.
It's not a winner-take-all system. The delegates are divided proportionally, according to each candidate's showing in the primary, O'Brien said.
For comparison's sake, California has 370 delegates, and New York has 236. Together, they make up more than half the total to secure the nomination.
Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont also are holding primaries Tuesday.
From the beginning, Connecticut's primary was expected to be less competitive because Sen. Joe Lieberman was running for the nomination and it was presumed he would do well in his home state. He dropped out of the race Feb. 3 after dismal showings in New Hampshire and other early primary states.
Lieberman will still appear on the ballot, as will others who have dropped out: former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and retired General Wesley Clark from Arkansas. By law, a ninth spot on the ballot, marked "uncommitted," is also listed.
Lieberman will still probably get a few votes, O'Brien said, but she doubted he would secure enough votes to get even one delegate from his home state.
"Fifteen percent is not easy to achieve without a real campaign organization and without a lot of momentum. A person who's no longer a candidate doesn't have either," she said.
Some avid Dean supporters are still trying to get voters to the polls in hopes of gathering delegates.
"The opportunity now is for delegates to go to the convention and help build the platform with Howard's ideas and initiatives," said Susan Wallace, who was the communications coordinator for Dean's Connecticut campaign.
The 2000 Democratic primary, between Al Gore and Bill Bradley, had a dismal 29 percent turnout.
At the time, Democrats were a little complacent after Bill Clinton's eight years in the White House, O'Brien said, but she predicted Democrats would turn out in record numbers for this year's primary.
"Democrats are angry about what's been happening over the last four years in this country, and I think they want to have a voice. They want to express their dissatisfaction with the Bush administration's agenda," she said.
Connecticut Democrats have a spotty record of picking winners.
They went for Gore in 2000 and Michael Dukakis in 1988, both of whom became the party's nominees. They also have backed some losers: Jerry Brown over Bill Clinton in 1992, Gary Hart over Walter Mondale in 1984 and Ted Kennedy over Jimmy Carter in 1980.