Can Scott Brown Pull off a Massachusetts Miracle?

Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown

Election Day in Massachusetts is still a couple days away. Anything could happen. But all indications are pointing to Republican State Senator Scott Brown shocking the world with a “Massachusetts Mriacle“.

Not more than a couple weeks ago, it was still assumed that the Democrat would win the special election to fill, what even Fox News is still calling, “Ted Kennedy’s seat”. Massachusetts Democrat attorney general Martha Coakley had a double-digit lead in the polls in this bluest of blue states. Among registered voters who affiliate with a major party, Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one. The people of Massachusetts haven’t sent a Republican to the U. S. Senate since, well, no one can remember when.

Then the perfect storm started to happen. Coakley apparently had thought that it was enough to be the Democrat on the ballot. And in Massachusetts, it usually is. But this is 2010. She was aloof, staying out of the public, not wanting to shake hands and look voters in the eye.

Then came the debate moderated by David Gergen. In the context of the U. S. Senate about to vote on federal health care “reform”, about Gergen asked Brown how he could go to the Senate and vote against it in the Kennedy’s seat. Brown shot back and stated, with all due respect, of course, that the seat does not belong to the Kennedys, nor does it belong to the Democrats. It’s the people’s seat. Whether by accident or by design, Brown was able say in a few seconds what people have been trying to say at town meetings all across the nation since last summer. 

Only time will tell whether Brown’s response will be as memorable as vice-presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen’s “You’re no Jack Kennedy” to Dan Quayle. The sidebar that no one mentions is that Bentsen and presidential candidate Michael Dukakis lost that election. As I write this, that 1988 presidential election and that quote by Bentsen had both Kennedy ties and Massachusetts ties (Dukakis was a former Massachusetts governor).

As Coakley and her campaign saw the race getting uncomfortably close, she had to start going negative in her messaging in an attempt to reduce public favor with Brown. But it didn’t help when someone’s spell-checker broke down when producing an attack ad against Brown. The Coakley campaign misspelled “Massachusetts”. (If nothing else good comes out of this special election, amateur bloggers like me will have learned how to spell “Massachusetts”.

Brown clearly has the mojo at this point in the race. Prior to January 5th, Coakley generally had double-digit leads in the polls. However, four of the last six polls (since january 7th)  released publicly have Brown leading (one of the two polls that have Coakley leading was conducted by a Democrat-leaning organization). 

How did Brown, a Republican in an extremely blue state, capture so much support? I’ll borrow a couple sentences from this Time article, as I think they stated it well:

“Given the often contrived and polarizing conflict that dominates the cable-TV landscape, it would be easy, on the outside looking in, to slap a Tea Party label on Brown’s supporters. But most of those lunging for his hand were not lunatics from the fringe, merely Democrats and Independents feeling bruised, ignored and taken for granted by people in power.”

Coakley is now calling in the big guns to campaign for her – a far cry from just getting her name on the ballot as a Democrat and coasting to Washington. Former President Bill Clinton has visited Massachusetts, and Barack H. Obama is scheduled to visit today. (Word was Obama’s advisers carefully calculated the risks and rewards of campaigning for Coakley – can he afford to show up for a candidate who might lose? In the end, they chose to send him there on a Sunday, a notoriously slow news day.)

Win or lose, Brown has already pulled of something that most people just a few weeks ago thought not possible: a competitive race in Massachusetts. Again, as Time puts it:

But, in a sense, Scott Brown has already won; not simply for his party, Republican, but for any candidate across the landscape who looks toward a volatile November with the message, “It’s our turn.”

In a couple days well know whether Scott Brown just won, or really won.

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