How Scott Brown is closing gap on Martha Coakley in Senate race
Scott Brown has used healthcare reform and homeland security to his advantage in Massachusetts. Martha Coakley’s campaign, meanwhile, has been widely criticized for complacency.
How is it possible that a Republican just might have a chance at a Senate seat in one of the bluest states in the US?Skip to next paragraph
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The Massachusetts special election on Jan. 19 to replace Sen. Edward Kennedy was supposed to be an easy win for Martha Coakley (D), Massachusetts’ attorney general. She’s run statewide campaigns before, has good name recognition with voters, and received the backing of Senator Kennedy’s wife and family.
In contrast, her challenger, state Sen. Scott Brown (R), is a previously little-known local politician in a state that has three Democrats for every Republican.
But Senator Brown has benefited from several factors – both inside the state and nationally. Among them: the healthcare-reform debate, the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner, and a lackluster campaign by Brown’s opponent. Add to that Democrats’ flagging support across the United States, and suddenly, Brown is the underdog candidate with a shot at the race.
Ms. Coakley and Brown are in direct opposition regarding the healthcare reform bill: While Coakley has pledged her support, Brown has promised to vote against it.
This is significant because Massachusetts’ new senator could be in office before the Senate votes on the final version of the bill. For the legislation to pass, Senate Democrats need to maintain the 60 “yea” votes that they collected for their earlier vote on Dec. 24. On the other hand, if Republicans add one vote – bringing them up to 41 – they could sustain a filibuster.
“To the degree that there’s a defining issue, it’s whether the winner of this race will be the 41st vote or the 60th vote for healthcare reform,” says Jeffrey Berry, a political scientist at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.
National issues, national interest
The focus on healthcare reform has meant this race is far from local.
Brown announced Tuesday that he was able to raise $1.3 million for his campaign in a single 24-hour period with an online push. Accompanying the announcement was the slogan, “red invades blue.”
Coakley has also been courting out-of-state donors, and she attended a fundraising event in Washington Tuesday night.
Both candidates have been receiving support from national partisan groups purchasing television ads on their behalf. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Service Employees International Union have been spending big for Coakley, while four Republican groups have purchased air time for Brown.