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2012 Senate Race Headed for Primary Showdown

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – The 2012 race among Democrats vying for a chance to replace outgoing Sen. Joseph Lieberman is already heating up and is likely headed for a contentious primary showdown next August.

Even with the presidential and Congressional elections still a year away, the two top Democratic rivals — U.S. Rep. Christopher Murphy and former secretary of the state Susan Bysiewicz — have launched their campaigns.

To read profiles on both candidates click on the following links:

• Bysiewicz Runs for Senate as "Outsider, Underdog"

• Murphy Blasts Tea Party, GOP Early in 2012 Race

While both candidates hope to gain their party's endorsement at the Democratic state convention in May, Bysiewicz has already vowed to challenge Murphy in a primary if he gets the nomination, and says she expects him to primary her if she gains the nod.

"It's not too early to tour the state for some serious campaigning," said Bysiewicz. "I'm taking my campaign directly to the voters."

Murphy, however, who has to spend half his time in Washington, says he is also reaching out to voters.

"My focus right now is on doing the best job I can as a member of Congress, while we build the foundation of a strong campaign for the Senate," said Murphy, a former state legislator who now represents northwestern and central Connecticut .

One problem facing Democratic voters is that the two candidates may be too similar. They are both lawyers who served several terms in the state legislature, agree Washington is being held hostage by obstructionist Republicans and Tea Party members in Congress, and that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan must end.

They also agree with President Barack Obama that the middle class and poor are shouldering too much of the economic burden, and that the disparity between rich and poor has widened considerably.

But voters will ultimately decide which candidate they believe can beat the Republican opponent, who may either be former Fairfield County congressman Chris Shays or former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon , who is seeking the GOP nomination for the Senate for the second time in two years. McMahon lost in 2010 to former state attorney general Richard Blumenthal, despite spending $50 million of her own money in the campaign.

In a race expected to receive national attention, it could come down to Murphy's case that he already has Congressional experience to take with him to navigate the halls of the Senate, versus Bysiewicz' argument that she has been popular with voters for her strong battles on their behalf.

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