It has been virtually an article of faith that the Democratic nominee, state Attorney General Martha Coakley, would win the seat with little trouble. That was a logical assumption. After all, Kennedy was elected nine times by Massachusetts voters (including a special election to complete his brother Jack's unexpired term), and he never received less than 58% of the vote.
Until recently, Republicans talked a good game, insisting that an upset was possible. But now, with the finish line in sight, it appears that an upset may be a little more than a possibility — a fact that is dawning on observers who, not too long ago, tended to believe the race was in the bag for Democrats.
Considering Massachusetts' political history, that wasn't an unreasonable conclusion. But, as the old saying goes, that was then and this is now.
- Jessica Van Sack of the Boston Herald reports that the latest Suffolk University/7News survey shows Republican Scott Brown holding a four–point advantage.
"Although Brown's ... lead ... is within the ... margin of error," Van Sack writes, "the underdog's position at the top of the results stunned even pollster David Paleologos," who called it a "Brown–out."
Independents appear to be fueling this upset–in–the–making. The survey shows nearly two–thirds of independents supporting Brown, reflecting a trend that has been showing up in national polls in recent months. Democrats in general have been losing the support of independents.
But most observers didn't think the defection of independents would be as pronounced as it appears to be in Massachusetts.
- Yesterday, The Rothenberg Political Report moved the race to the "Toss–Up" column.
"Whatever the shortcomings of the Coakley campaign (and they certainly exist), this race has become about change, President Obama and Democratic control of all of the levers of power in Washington, D.C.," says Rothenberg. "Brown has 'won' the 'free media' over the past few days, and if he continues to do so, he will win the election."
- Byron York of the Washington Examiner writes that a Democratic strategist laments that "the bottom has fallen out of [Coakley's] poll numbers" and has concluded that she is "destined to lose."
- Political reporter Steve Kornacki, who wrote earlier this month that a Republican victory was not going to happen, now writes in his blog that "Brown may actually win." But he urges readers not to "overreact ... This will probably be a very good year for the GOP. But their 'revival' will only last as long as the economy is in the tank."
Given the stubbornness of the double–digit unemployment rate, that might be much longer than either Kornacki or the Democrats would prefer.
- Kennedy's widow, Vicki Kennedy, isn't sitting idly by. As CNN.com reports, she has been hitting the airwaves in commercials that began airing today, pleading with Massachusetts voters to keep the seat in the Democratic column.
Mrs. Kennedy, more than anyone else (with the exception, perhaps, of the late senator's first wife and their three children), knows that health care reform was her husband's lifelong goal, the reason he wanted to have someone appointed to take his place between the time of his death and the special election, and that the election of a Republican to his seat could well put it on the legislative back burner for another 15 to 20 years.