Massachusetts Senate race hinges on independent vote
Massachusetts is one of the most Democratic states in the country. But moderate Republicans have done well there too over the years, and independent voters are likely to make the difference in the special US Senate race.
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State Sen. Scott Brown (R) is proving to be a major challenge for Attorney General Martha Coakley (D), who was heavily favored early in the race; a poll released late Thursday had Mr. Brown leading Ms. Coakley by 4 percentage points.
Brown’s success may have to do with his ability to appeal to independent voters in the Bay State – 51 percent of voters here are unenrolled.
True, Democrats outnumber Republicans 3-to-1, and the state can be counted on to elect Democratic presidential candidates by consistently wide margins – President Obama won here with a 26-point margin in 2008, Sen. John Kerry by 25 points in 2004.
It’s results like these that routinely place Massachusetts as one of the top states for Democrats in rankings of party affiliation. Last year, a Gallup survey named Massachusetts the third-most Democratic state, behind only Washington D.C. and Rhode Island.
Long history of GOP governors
But Massachusetts voters also gave Republicans the key to the governors’ office for 16 straight years, from 1990 to 2006.
Moreover, Senate races have historically been tight when the Republican candidate is moderate enough to appeal to centrist voters. Sen. John Kerry had close races against Ray Shamie in 1984, Jim Rappaport in 1990, and Bill Weld in 1996 – all of whom earned at least 40 percent of the vote.
Senator Kennedy saw his toughest challenge in 1994 against Mitt Romney, who would later be Massachusetts’ governor and an unsuccessful candidate for president. While Mr. Romney eventually shifted further to the right during his 2008 presidential bid, Massachusetts voters considered him a moderate Republican in his statewide campaigns. In fact, until 1993, Romney was registered as an independent.
For Coakley and Brown, it’s the state’s independents who will likely determine the outcome of the race.