NEWTOWN — There was no shoulder — just inches separating speeding traffic from this drifter with a five o’clock shadow and a blister on his right foot.
But this was no vagabond. Not Forrest Gump, either.
This was Chris Murphy, chugging along on the side of road in a place where the landmarks are seared into the Democratic senator’s memory.
One of the leaders of the resistance to President Donald Trump in the Senate, Murphy arrived in Sandy Hook Wednesday on the fourth day of a 111-mile walk across Connecticut.
“A big part of my heart lives in this town,” Murphy told nearly 500 constituents during a raucous standing-room only forum afterward at Edmond Town Hall.
Murphy, 44, started his trek Sunday in Killingly near the Rhode Island border and will reach the end of the road Thursday in Danbury with a similar town hall event.
It’s the second consecutive summer Murphy, who last year was on the short list of Hillary Clinton to be her running mate, is taking it to the streets.
Murphy’s ascent in the Democratic Party and up the Vegas betting boards for president in 2020 — one online casino has him a 125-to-1 shot — follows his Senate filibuster on gun control last summer and Trump opposition.
“I have only had one guy give me the bird,” Murphy said. “I stopped and talked to a couple of guys in Southbury with Rush Limbaugh playing on the radio. I’m pretty sure they’re not fans of mine.”
Murphy tried to tamp down speculation about his political future at the town hall, where one audience member shouted “lock him up” in reference to Donald Trump.
“I think we’re scratching the surface of impeachable offenses,” Murphy said over the constant din of traffic earlier in the afternoon.
Around 5:30 p.m. Murphy crossed the Silver Bridge over the Housatonic River from Southbury to Newtown. Murphy peered over the edge of the span down to the water.
“My feet are in worse shape this year,” Murphy said. “I know this kind of looks crazy.”
Republicans viewed Murphy’s amble with cynicism, saying it is part of brand-building effort by an obstructionist liberal with one eye on a 2020 White House run.
“He’s more interested in raising his political profile for whatever endeavor he’s looking at,” said J.R. Romano, the state Republican Party chairman.
Marci Kaminski, 66, a retired Danbury public schools teacher and Southbury resident, stationed herself at the side of Glen Road to catch Murphy.
“I told my daughter, ‘why is he walking?’ ” said Kaminiski, a registered Democrat who posed for a selfie with Murphy.
Murphy, who is up for re-election in 2018, said he takes nothing for granted and wants to get a feel for what’s on the minds of his constituents.
“People hate the U.S. Congress,” Murphy said. “They think we don’t listen to them.”
Murphy wears a hydrating pack on his back and has a charging case for his iPhone to keep up with all of the Washington maelstrom.
“I think he effectively turned the White House into a propaganda arm of the white supremacists,” Murphy, who is doing most of the walk alone, said of Trump.
Dominic Rapini, a Branford Republican businessman who is seeking to challenge Murphy, said in a recent interview that the incumbent’s influence is limited as a member of the Democratic Senate minority.
“The challenge I have with Chris Murphy is he’s very willing to say all the time what he’s against,” Rapini said.
Ryan Clancy honked at Murphy as the senator approached the village center of Sandy Hook.
“We appreciate that you remember us in Sandy Hook,” said Clancy, 40, an unaffiliated voter who was with his three sons, Oliver, Finn and Beau.
Murphy, a three-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives, had just been elected to the Senate when Adam Lanza went on his Dec. 14, 2012, rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the deadliest grade-school shooting in U.S. history. The slaying of 20 first-graders and six educators became an instant call to action for gun control activists, with Murphy and President Barack Obama taking up the cause.
The push to expand background checks on guns and ammunition, expand the list of illegal assault weapons and ban high-capacity magazines, while successful in Connecticut, could not overcome the strong political headwinds of the Republican-controlled Congress and the National Rifle Association.
“Unfortunately, we will be playing defense in Congress,” Murphy said.
By Senate standards, Murphy still has a long row to hoe before earning elite mileage status.
Murphy’s GOP colleague, Lamar Alexander, traversed his home state of Tennessee during his successful bid for governor in 1978, covering 1,000 miles.
It was Lawton Chiles, the late former Florida senator and governor, who earned the nickname “Walkin’ Lawton” for his 1,003-mile odyssey from Pensacola to Key West during his 1970 senate campaign.
Murphy weaved from one side of the road to another, his Nikes navigating broken pavement and weeds.
“I try walking against traffic,” Murphy said.