Ted Kennedy's Senate Seat Could Be Lost to Republican, Say Pollsters
ALTERNET EDITOR'S NOTE: On January 19, the people of Massachusetts will vote in a special election to fill the Senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy. (The seat is currently held by Paul Kirk, a Kennedy associate who was appointed to the seat by Gov. Deval Patrick for the interim period between Kennedy's death and the special election.) Two major party contenders are Democrat Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts attorney general, and Republican Scott Brown, who holds a seat in the state Senate.
It had been assumed that the seat would be an easy win for the Democrat, but a January 4 poll by Rasmussen Reports found a mere nine-point gap between the candidates. Many pundits took the poll with a grain of salt because of Rasmussen's reputation as a GOP-leaning outfit. But today the Public Policy Polling Co. announced that, based on its numbers -- which it has not yet released -- the election was "losable" by the Democrats.
The folks at MoveOn.org Political Action note in an e-mail solicitation for campaign donations for Coakley that she is being outspent on television advertising by her Republican foe, and that "some of the people behind the infamous Swift Boat and racist Willie Horton ads are spending $400,000 on a new attack ad."
Because of the heavy interest we'll try to get our Massachusetts numbers out over the weekend. But because we've already conducted most of the interviews for it here are some of the major storylines we're seeing:
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. 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.
Scott Brown's favorables are up around 60%, a product of his having had the airwaves to himself for the last week.
It will be necessary to wait for the actual numbers to determine just how winnable this campaign is for Republicans.
As we wait, I think there are some other lessons we can learn about the 2010 Senate picture from this development. Specifically, due to ongoing or emerging polling woes, Democratic chances of winning the Senate races in North Dakota (if Hoeven runs), Nevada, Colorado, Arkansas and Kentucky are virtually nil (see my latest Senate forecast and recent Rasmussen polls from Kentucky and Arkansas for more on this). One caveat is that Democratic chances in Arkansas and Nevada would be improved if incumbents Reid and Lincoln decided not to run for re-election.
This negative scenario puts Democrats in a four-seat hole before we even start looking at the relative toss-ups in Delaware (if Biden runs), Illinois, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Even if Dems sweep those five seats, that still gives Republicans a two-seat net gain. So, even in the realistic base-case scenario, Democrats will need two Republican votes to pass pretty much anything as long as the 60-vote culture remains in place.
In other words, a year from now, Democrats won't be able to much much of anything through Congress, even compared to current levels. Hell, if Scott Brown pulls off the upset in Massachusetts, they won't even be able to pass the health care bill.