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Rothenberg rates Massachusetts a toss-up

Posted by Richard on January 15, 2010

From the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report:

Democratic desperation and other compelling evidence strongly suggest that Democrats may well lose the late Senator Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat in Tuesday’s special election. Because of this, we are moving our rating of the race from Narrow Advantage for the Incumbent Party to Toss-Up.

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. Brown has “won” the “free media” over the past few days, and if he continues to do so, he will win the election.

Late Democratic efforts to demonize Republican Scott Brown, to make the race into a partisan battle and to use the Kennedy name to drive Democratic voters to the polls could still work. But the advertising clutter in the race works against them, and voters often tune out late messages, which can seem desperate.

UPDATE: Rothenberg's analysis (I misspelled his name earlier and have corrected it) is confirmed by the latest poll results (emphasis added): 

Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown has surged ahead of his Democratic opponent Martha Coakley, according to a new poll released Thursday night.

Brown leads Coakley by a margin of 50 percent to 46 percent, the Suffolk University/WHDH-TV poll found. It is the first poll to show Brown, who had been thought a long-shot underdog, leading the race.

It raises the possibility of an historic political upset in Massachusetts.

“It’s a massive change in the political landscape,” David Paleologos, director of Suffolk’s Political Research Center, told The Boston Herald.

Paleologos told the newspaper that the poll shows high numbers of independent voters turning out on election day, which benefits Brown, who has 65 percent of independents compared to Coakley’s 30 percent.

That's great news! But I hope the Brown campaign has lots of lawyers and poll watchers at the ready. Hugh Hewitt famously said, in a book of that name, "If it's not close, they can't cheat." The flip side is: if it's close, they can — and will — cheat.

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