(Read Part II here.)
There may be an upset in the making in the race to take Ted Kennedy’s place as MA senator. The shoo-in was Democrat Attorney General Martha Coakley. Was.
It doesn’t help Coakley that the Tea Party candidate’s name is Joe Kennedy, sure to siphon votes from her due to voter confusion alone. Although Kennedy may tap conservative votes from state Sen. Republican Scott Brown, it is Coakley that Hill Buzz thinks Kennedy will make trouble for.
But the surprise is Coakley’s emerging competition, Brown.
This becomes a critical race to the rest of us because while Coakley has pledged to be the 60th vote for Obamacare, which would guarantee its passage in the Senate, Brown has pledged to be the 41st vote against, which would kill it….
Here are the latest poll #s, according to the Weekly Standard via CBS, today:
Welcome to MA, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3 to 1…
While it’s possible that Democratic negotiations for a compromise bill could break down on Capitol Hill, the best shot at killing the legislation may be electing Brown to the Senate.
A poll released January 5 by Rasmussen Reports startled the political community. It suggested that Brown could conceivably pull off a stunning upset: He was within striking distance of… Coakley. While Brown trailed Coakley 50% to 41%, Rasmussen noted that “special elections are typically decided by who shows up to vote, and it is clear from the data that Brown’s supporters are more enthusiastic. In fact,” the pollster added, “among those who are absolutely certain they will vote, Brown pulls to within 2 points of Coakley.”
On January 7, the Cook Political Report moved the race from its “solid Democratic”column to “leans Democratic” – just 1 notch away from “toss-up.” Remember: This is MA. The Democrats hold nearly 90% of state house seats and all of the congressional delegation; no Republican has won a US Senate seat here since 1972; and Barack Obama carried the state by 26 points.
But it may be even worse for Coakley. According to Politico, January 9:
Republicans have a very real chance at orchestrating a MA miracle in this month’s special Senate election… according to a new Democratic poll out tonight.
The shocking poll from Public Policy Polling shows… Brown leading… Martha Coakley by 1 point, 48% to 47%, which would mean the race is effectively tied.
Among independents, who make up 51% of the electorate in the Bay State, Brown leads Coakley 63% to 31%.
Just 50% of voters view Coakley favorably, while 42% viewing her unfavorably.
Brown, who began an advertising blitz this month, sports a strong 57% favorability rating, with just 25% viewing him unfavorably – very strong numbers for a Republican in the heavily Democratic state.
On the issue of health care, which Brown has emphasized that he would be the deciding vote against, 47% said they opposed the plan in Congress, while 41% supported it….
In his analysis, pollster Tom Jensen noted that Coakley is suffering from a less-than-excited Democratic electorate, a dynamic similar to the gubernatorial contests in NJ and VA that Democrats lost last year.
“The MA Senate race is shaping up as a potential disaster for Democrats,” said PPP pollster Dean Debnam. “Martha Coakley’s complacent campaign has put Scott Brown in a surprisingly strong position and she will need to step it up in the final week to win a victory once thought inevitable.”
The healthcare decision is such a concern, MA Democrats are already planning dirty tricks should Brown upset Coakley. According to the Boston Herald, January 9:
It looks like the fix is in on national health-care reform – and it all may unfold on Beacon Hill.
[I]nterim Sen. Paul Kirk predicted Congress would pass a health-care reform bill this month.
“We want to get this resolved before President Obama’s State of the Union address in early to mid-February,” Kirk told reporters….
The longtime aide and confidant of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy… vowed to vote for the bill even if… Brown, who opposes the health-care reform legislation, prevails in a Jan. 19 special election.
“Absolutely,” Kirk said, when asked if he’d vote for the bill, even if Brown captures the seat….
The US Senate ultimately will schedule the swearing-in of Kirk’s successor, but not until the state certifies the election.
Friday, a spokesman for Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, who is overseeing the election but did not respond to a call seeking comment, said certification of the Jan. 19 election by the Governor’s Council would take a while.
“Because it’s a federal election,” spokesman Brian McNiff said. “We’d have to wait 10 days for absentee and military ballots to come in.”
Another source told the Herald that Galvin’s office has said the election won’t be certified until Feb. 20 – well after the president’s address.
Since the US Senate doesn’t meet again in formal session until Jan. 20, Bay State voters will have made their decision before a vote on health-care reform could be held. But Kirk and Galvin’s office said Friday a victorious Brown would be left in limbo.
In contrast, Rep. Niki Tsongas was sworn in at the US House of Representatives on Oct. 18, 2007, just 2 days after winning a special election to replace Martin Meehan. In that case, Tsongas made it to Capitol Hill in time to override a presidential veto of the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Friday, Brown, who has been closing the gap with Coakley in polls and fund raising, blasted the political double standard.