Submitted By Todd on January 9th at 9:16am
Attorney General Martha Coakley's campaign to succeed Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate has been as cynical as they come. Her strategy? Don't campaign, don't return media phone calls, don't run adds - just ride a lead, and let the power of the D next to her name do its work. Will voters fall for it? Here's what pollster Public Policy Polling says about what its learned conducting a survey that's coming out this weekend.
At this point a plurality of those planning to turn out oppose the health care bill. The massive enthusiasm gap we saw in Virginia is playing itself out in Massachusetts as well. Republican voters are fired up and they're going to turn out.
Scott Brown has been the tortoise - unfazed, perhaps plodding at times, but consistent and confident, he has created a public persona of a likable, hardworking and traditional guy with strong ties to community and family who represents the antidote to the greed and disconnectedness of Washington. The kind of guy you can trust. It's just what the doctor ordered - and it happens to be the real Scott Brown (I've known him since college).
Scott Brown's favorables are up around 60%, a product of his having had the airwaves to himself for the last week. By comparison Bob McDonnell's were at 55% right before his election (in Virginia) and Chris Christie's were only at 43% (in NJ).
On Tuesday, January 5, Rasmussen released a poll that showed the Democrat leading by just 9 points in the race against Scott Brown. While Democrats love to pretend that they don't believe polls by Scott Rasmussen, the race was instantly turned on its head. Coakley quickly got a TV commercial up in heavy rotation, and on Thursday morning the Kennedy's, who are not believed to have much affinity for Coakley, got together for public hugs with Martha.
Martha Coakley needs to have a coherent message up on the air over the last ten days that her election is critical to health care passing and Ted Kennedy's legacy- right now Democrats in the state are not feeling a sense of urgency.
Momentum is a curious force, however, and sports fans know that suddenly getting into a game that you've been taking for granted can be very difficult. The forces of nature conspire against it. 2010 is will be a watershed year in which voters, angry over being on the losing end of the economy while the "haves" are the beneficiaries of all sorts of government largess, are not in the mood for ordinations. It's no time for a first term AG to act like a member of the royal family.
Coakley's campaign or outside groups need to tie Brown's image to national Republicans and knock him down a notch over the final week of the campaign.
Rolling out the Kennedy's shows a lack of understanding of the political moment. It's not that there aren't still voters with photos of Jack Kennedy on their mantels, it's just that they aren't relevant anymore - particularly not in this race. Voters are angry now because they see government out of control and out of their control, and nostalgia plays don't cut through that strong feeling. Events have bypassed the Kennedy's, and joining hands with them feeds the negative Coakley storyline that seems to be taking hold.
This has become a losable race for Democrats- but it could also be easily winnable if Coakley gets her act together for the last week of the campaign. Complacency is the Democrats' biggest enemy at this point and something that needs to be overcome to avoid a potential disaster.
Coakley's approach, in a special election in the middle of winter, has been to assume that low turnout will allow the usual Democratic machinery to get its core voters to the polls and carry her easily over an underfunded state senator with little name recognition statewide. But Rasmussen indicates the low turnout game may play to Brown's advantage:
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, among those who are absolutely certain they will vote, Brown pulls to within two points of Coakley. That suggests a very low turnout will help the Republican and a higher turnout is better for the Democrat.
Refusing to engage in visible and meaningful debates, taking a long vacation over the holidays, and failing to make a compelling argument for her own candidacy, Coakley has not defined herself as a remedy to any pressing problem of the day.
Both candidates get better than 70% of the vote from members of their respective parties, but Brown leads 65% to 21% among voters not affiliated with either of the major parties.
We are in search of leaders with a sense of mission, not a sense of entitlement, and Coakley offers only a "go along" vote in support of a Democratic government for which support is collapsing.