Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Massachusetts Senate Race: An Upset Brewing?

As I remarked previously. the Democrat nominee for Ted Kennedy's old seat, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is hardly distinguished even by Democrat standards.

Normally, any Democrat running for Senate in the Commonwealth has a pretty easy time of it, but disillusion with the coming wonders of Obamacare, the highly unpopular regime of Democrat Governor Deval Patrick and GOP candidate Scott Brown's astute campaign seems to have made this a bit of a horse race. At least lefty Martin Peretz at the New Republic seems to think so:

There have been no recent "scientific" polls for the January 19 Massachusetts special election that will fill the Senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy's death. But there has been one kinda-sloppy telephone survey suggesting that Republican contender Scott Brown, a state senator in the Bay State legislature, might actually defeat Attorney General Martha Coakley, who won the early-December Democratic primary.

So let me tell you what my spitzfingergeful confides in me. That someone who is a reasonable conservative on economic matters and conveys reasonable character has a good chance to beat the anointed Democrat, who happens to be a run-of-the-mill Democrat.

Brown has already put himself out there as a tax cutter without really saying what spending cuts he would favor. This makes for a nonsense ledger. As it happens, I favor the Obama economic agenda, even something with a more egalitarian thrust. But I don't think Massachusetts does. The voters are scared.

Brown compares himself to John Kennedy in a just-released television spot. Well, the Dems have gone hysterical. This is a sign of their (incipient) panic. Maybe their panic is apt.

Here's the TV spot:

Brown is fighting hard for the seat, citing JFK as the first president to call for across the board tax cuts:

“President Kennedy actually was the first person who called for across-the-board tax cuts,’’ Brown said yesterday during a press conference at the Massachusetts GOP headquarters in Boston. “The theme is there’s two different people from two different parties, two different eras, who have the same message, which is across-the-board tax cuts.’’

He added, "Democrats recognize that this is no longer the party of JFK, that the fiscal policies especially, and the polices dealing with national security . . . they’re out of touch."

Brown got a boost yesterday from Mitt Romney, the former governor and presidential candidate, who sent out a fund-raising appeal on Brown’s behalf to his national list of supporters. Romney asserted that a Brown victory in the Jan. 19 election would represent the key 41st vote to block the Democrats’ health care plan in Washington.

“Scott’s election would shock the country and send a strong message that business-as-usual in Washington is coming to an end,’’ Romney wrote in an e-mail message. “Wouldn’t it be nice to elect a fiscal conservative to Ted Kennedy’s seat in the United States Senate?’’

In his press conference yesterday, Brown also assailed Coakley for her limited campaigning.

"Martha is on vacation," he said. "She clearly thinks she’s already won this race. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was actually picking out the drapes."

In addition, Brown filed legislation to reestablish the temporary sales tax holiday in Massachusetts, which he wants to be held on Presidents’ Day weekend, Feb. 13-15.

"Our government is out of touch with the people of Massachusetts," he said. "It taxes too much, spends too much, and believes there’s a taxpayer-funded solution for every fiscal problem that we actually have."

Coakley is doing what frontrunners sometimes do...running out the clock, avoiding mistakes and coasting to victory. That can backfire bigtime if the frontrunner is merely complacent and not as far ahead as they might have thought.

If Scott Brown merely gets close to Coakley, it's a major deal, and would send a shock wave through the Democrats as the midterms approach. If he wins, it would be a political tsunami, and an outlier for huge GOP gains in the 2010 elections. It would also be the crucial 41st Republican vote in the Senate against clothure, which could spell the end of Obamacare.

Could Brown win? I'm a bit reluctant to go that far, although he certainly has some momentum going. The NRO's Jim Geraghty slices things this way:

I remain wary about the chances of Republican Scott Brown in the special Senate election in Massachusetts, but a person working with Brown's campaign passes along this bit:

First, thank-you for covering this race as the lack of national attention on this race at this time in the Senate is genuinely vexing to many of Brown's supporters.

Secondly, at the ground level we have seen an incredibly unique phenomenon occurring here. Without the benefit of polls, I would say Brown is causing quite a groundswell of support from Republicans, unenrolleds and even Democrats. Now when registered Democrats are expressing an interest to volunteer, we know something is up.

In the end, it might be the lack of national attention that helps us towards victory here. For Coakley's supporters don't even believe a race is occurring. And the fiscal conservatives of Massachusetts are by far, hands down the most motivated group in our state during this special election.

Meanwhile RedMassGroup notes that Brown raised more than $600,000 in December. Coakley will still have the financial advantage, but that seems like a healthy sum for a challenger in a special election. Over at RealClearPolitics, Sean Trende does a bit of back-of-the-envelope math and concludes:

In any event, if we take a 38 percent Democrat, 19 percent Republican, 42 percent Independent electorate and have Coakley win 90 percent of the Democrats, 4 percent of Republicans and 38 percent of Independents, we come out with an exceedingly close 51.06 percent-48.9 percent Coakley win. I did not expect that.

So we'll see, won't we?

UPDATE: More here on the race from William Jacobsen at Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion

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