Sunday, January 10, 2010

Huge upset developing in Mass. race for Teddy's Senate seat, as new poll show Republican Scott Brown pulling ahead

Scott Brown, GOP candidate in special election to fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat

A year ago, Barack Obama carried Massachusetts over John McCain by a whopping 62% to 36%, and John Kerry glided to victory in the Senate race with 63% of the vote. In 2000, Ted Kennedy was releected to the Senate with 73% of the vote. In 2006, he won 69%.

Now, a new poll shows a virtual tie in the race to fill the seat held by Kennedy in the Senate since 1962 -- with Republican Scott Brown actually edging democrat Martha Coakley. Brown's election would end the Senate Democrats' ability to control the Senate with a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority. Since Massachusetts is the bluest of all the blue states -- it was the one and only state that George McGovern won in 1972 (he also took D.C.) -- a GOP victory would be a huge upset, a bombshell, a true game changer, a political upheaval (add your own cliche; they're all on the mark):

The Massachusetts Senate race is now a toss up.

Buoyed by a huge advantage with independents and relative disinterest from Democratic voters in the state, Republican Scott Brown leads Martha Coakley 48-47. Here are the major factors leading to this surprising state of affairs:

-As was the case in the Gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia last year, it looks like the electorate in Massachusetts will be considerably more conservative than the one that showed up in 2008. Obama took the state by 26 points then, but those planning to vote next week only report having voted for him by 16.

-Republicans are considerably more enthusiastic about turning out to vote than Democrats are. 66% of GOP voters say they are 'very excited' about casting their votes, while only 48% of Democrats express that sentiment- and that's among the Democrats who are planning to vote in contrast to the many who are apparently not planning to do so at this point.

-Brown has eye popping numbers with independents, sporting a 70/16 favorability rating with them and holding a 63-31 lead in the horse race with Coakley. Health care may be hurting Democratic fortunes with that group, as only 27% of independents express support for Obama's plan with 59% opposed.

-In a trend that's going to cause Democrats trouble all year, voters disgusted with both parties are planning to vote for the one out of power. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Brown's standing is that only 21% of Massachusetts voters have a favorable opinion of Congressional Republicans...but at the same time only 33% view Congressional Democrats favorably. And among voters who have a negative take on both parties, who account for more than 20% of the electorate, Brown leads 74-21.

-Because he's basically been untouched so far, Brown's favorability spread is a remarkable +32, at 57/25. For some perspective on how good those numbers are, Bob McDonnell was at a +20 spread with Virginia voters in our final poll there before going on to a 17 point victory.

PPP goes on to point out that Coakley is very much still in the race and can pull it out by energizing reliable Democrats to vote, linking her campaign to Ted Kennedy's legacy and tying Brown to the national Republicans -- not a popualr bunch in Massachusetts.

Still, this is the first competitive Senate race in the Bay State in a long time.

Thoughts? Post a comment.

Related: Hmm...on the other hand, the Boston Globe has just released its survey which shows Coakley ahead by a comfortable 15-point margin! The PPP poll has a larger sample and a smaller margin of error. Also, PPP is a Democratic polling firm, so it's not a GOP shill. Overall, I'd say put your money on the PPP poll, since special elections have notoriously low turnout numbers. The Globe results probably reflect accurately voters' preferences in a larger turnout.