Will Obama’s visit be enough to halt Brown’s momentum?

[Updated below] Public Policy Polling’s last survey of Massachussetts will make Democrats yearn for last week’s PPP poll, the one many people dismissed as a GOP-friendly outlier: Scott Brown is now up 51% to 46%.

The margin that is still barely within the MoE - but there is no mistaking  the trendline, since it’s been the same according to every pollster: the Republican has all the momentum. (A second poll is out tonight, and it finds Brown leading by a large margin: 51% to 41%. But it was released by the Merriman River Group, a firm I had never heard about, and it was conducted in the space of four hours - between 5pm and 8pm on Wednesday. Both of these facts make me extremely weary to treat this poll as a credible one, but everyone can make up his own mind based on the info.)

If PPP’s top lines are brutal for Martha Coakley, so are the internals. 20% of Obama voters go for Brown, while only 4% of McCain voters go for Coakley; the Republican leads 64% to 32% among independents; 56% of voters say Brown has made a better case for why he should be elected, versus 41% who respond Coakley, which leaves no doubt that the only thing that’s allowing Coakley to hang on is that the state has such a staunchly Democratic electorate to start with.

But the ugliest result of all for Democrats is the candidates’ favorability rating. While Brown’s favorability rating only fell 1% in the past week (57 to 56), Coakley’s went from 50% to 44%. Sure Brown’s unfavorability increased much more than his opponent’s, but his ability to maintain his level even as his opponent finally went on the offensive is an astounding testament to just how much Coakley’s campaign has messed up. How could her camp allow Brown to have the airwaves for himself and to introduce himself to voters who had no idea who he was without the faintest push back?

The past few days’ events indeed suggests that Democrats might have woken up too late. After all, even as they thought that Coakley would regain her footing as soon as they got more active, there’s no denying that it is Brown who’s gained considerable ground over the past week. He gained 7% in Rasmussen, 4% in PPP and while the two surveys that found him ahead by 10% and 15% don’t come with any of the credibility they’d need for us to put much stock in them, it’s not like Democratic internal polls are telling a pretty story. Furthermore, the more the Attorney General has been under the spotlight the more vulnerable she has looked, and news stories that portray her as uninterested in campaigning and scoffing at the idea of shaking hands are just stunning given the situation she finds herself in.

There will be plenty of time to play the game blame on Wednesday morning if Brown pulls it off. For now, there’s still no reason for Democrats to give up. First, no credible public poll has found Brown leading outside of the margin of error; PPP, ARG and Suffolk were all within the MoE.

Second, Democrats’ superior machine in this state does give them reason to hope that polls are somewhat underestimating their base’s turnout. Thus, an important question going into Tuesday: How much can Democrats and their labor allies make up with a superior GOTV operation?

Yet, this alone cannot save Coakley because her problem no longer seems to be the turnout gap or a complacent Democratic electorate. At this point, voters are aware that the race is competitive and PPP found the electorate would be slightly more Democratic than it looked last week, but at the same time, typically-Democratic voters have moved to Brown’s camp. Sure, Coakley still needs her base to be more motivated than it appears, but this is no longer entirely an issue of turnout.

This gets us to the most important silver lining for Democrats: The poll was conducted Saturday through Sunday, so it can’t have recorded much if any effect from Barack Obama’s trip this afternoon.

If the White House agreed to send the president over, they had to have been confident that he would move numbers - not just in order to drive up turnout, but also in order to convince those Obama voters who are attracted to Brown to come back to the Democratic camp. (I didn’t see the speech, but some journalists who did weren’t impressed.) At the very least, for the first time tomorrow morning Coakley will get the type of headline she’s failed to receive for the past two weeks: a picture of her sharing the stage with Obama could still move numbers in her direction. Dems also have hope this 2008 video in which Brown suggests that Obama was born out of wedlock could put the Republican on the defensive; here again, how could the party not have had this ready back in December?! Perhaps more damaging might be this video taken this afternoon, in which Brown sure appears to smirk when a supporter audibly screams “Shove a curling iron up her butt” at a rally.

Will Obama’s visit and Democrats’ digging up footage they should have had ready in December be enough to halt Brown’s momentum? As I doubt many surveys will be released tomorrow, we probably won’t have much of an idea before Tuesday night whether Democrats’ week-end offensive was more successful than this past week’s campaign was. I for one have no clear idea of what is going to happen on Tuesday; but if the past week sure has seemed to be as brutal as it can gets for Democrats, the coming one has the potential to be far uglier.

Update: Is there a Joe Kennedy factor? The Libertarian Party nominee (who is not related to Teddy Kennedy despite his last name) will also appear on the ballot tomorrow, and some of the polling divergence appears to be corrolated with his performance:

  • The two polls that have shown Coakley leading outside of the MoE are the two in which Kennedy receives his highest support by far: 5% (Research 2000) and 6% (Boston Globe/UNH).
  • The two polls that have shown Brown’s greatest leads (Pajamas Media and PPP) do not include him at all.
  • Rasmussen, ARG and Suffolk, all of which have the race within the MoE do include Kennedy but find him at more modest levels than Research 2000 and UNH: 3% (Rasmussen and Suffolk) and 2% (ARG).

The variation might not be large enough to be decisive, but there does appear to be a clear pattern at work here. Even if Kennedy cuts just 1-2% off of Brown, that could obviously be significant. On the other hand, perhaps voters who were planning on voting third-party will migrate to Brown now that he looks like he could pull it off.

16 Responses to “Will Obama’s visit be enough to halt Brown’s momentum?”

  1. 1 Cliff

    I’m not so sure that Martha Coakley should be counting on her “labor allies.”


    I’ve been involved in a lot of campaigns…and until I saw these pictures, I had yet to see a single SEIU member campaigning for a Republican.

  2. 2 Ron

    If Democrats cant win a Senate race in the most Democratic state in the nation, they may as well just pack it up. The Democratic party is in serious danger of not being seriously able to compete in American politics for a while

  3. 3 Panos

    Coakley’s gaffes make Conrad Burns look like a thoughtful statesman.
    This woman is finished from politics no matter what the outcome of Tuesday’s election is.

  4. 4 Cicero

    Flashback a year ago, and the Democrats were gloating about the Obama administration and how his approach was exactly the change needed in Washington. A lot has happened in the last year. It amazes me that this senate race is even within 20 points. Sure, the Dems cry out “This is a special election!” or “Coakley is a weak candidate!”, but at the end of the day this election is a referendum on Obama. Obama’s favorability rating is barely positive in Mass, and that in itself is shocking. If the Dems keep making excuses now, they will be making all kind of excuses in November! Those who don’t read history are doomed to repeat it. The Dems should read up on 1994, or even 2006 or 2008.

  5. 5 Jaxx Raxor

    Right now, It seems to me that Brown has about 52% chance of winning the seat and Coakley 48%, which is much better than Brown then what I thought yesterday, which was only a 40$ chance of a Brown win. What this means is that while its still nearly 50/50 Brown is ever more slightly likely to win. While the fact that this is a special election and that the national enviroment is poor, I think the main reason this race is so close is because Caokley is such a poor candidate. Perhaps because she is a statewide offical, she took the race for granted and and will likely cause Brown to win. If strongly doubt that Capueno (sp?) (whom I would have voted for in the MA dem primary if I lived in MA) or Kazh (sp?) would not have taken a vacation a month after the primary, they would have agressively campaigned and not just sit on their ass and do nothing until its too late, and then make several gaffes.

    In the event of a Brown victory tommorow, I hope Capueno decides to challange him in 2012. Not only would that help solve the incumbent vs incumbent problem with MA likely to lose a seat in redistricting, but Dems would have a candidate who is unashamingly liberal and who would be a hard campaigner.

    I wonder if a Brown victory would embolden Republicans to expand the map even more in the Senate than it already is. If the GOP wins in MA tommorow and then holds OH, MO, NH, KY, LA, FL, and SC and picks up ND, NV, CO, IL, DE, AR, PA then they would have 48 Seats. They would need 3 more to get an outright majority, and the pickings seem slim. CA, CT, NY-Special, WI, HI, and WA seem to be the last ones. A Rassumessen poll I think last week showed Boxer only up 3, so that could be the next one, but geting two more would be difficult. With Blumenthal instead of Dodd it will be extremly difficult for Republicans to win. Perhaps if Blumenthal was as idiotic as Coakely he could also blow it but he has won many more statewide elections and is much more popular now than Coakely even at her high, so he is much less likely to make stupid istakes. In NY-Special the problem is finding a good GOP candidate. Giluani could have beaten Gillibrand, and perhaps also Pataki, but Giulani completely ruled out any statewide run and Pataki is unlikely to go in. In Wisconsin Republicans would require either Tommy Thompson or Paul Ryan to run against Feingold but neither of them are likely to do so. HI would require Inoyue to cancel his reelection plans (or die!) to be competive. Current Gov. Lindle Lingle would be a strong candidate in an open race for the GOP but not against Inoyue himself. In WA the GOP has Reichert of WA-6, attorney General Rob McKenna, and Secretary of State Sam Reed. They would be very strong against Patty Murray but they are unlikely to run unless she unexpectily retired.

    This is why I doubt the GOP will be able to take over the Senate, even if they can take over the House, but they could be very well positioned for a takeover bid in 2012 with so many Dem seats up for takeover.

  6. 6 Cliff

    In WA the GOP has . . . Secretary of State Sam Reed. (He) would be very strong against Patty Murray


    Trust me, if you were from Washington State, you would know why that’s funny.

  7. 7 Joe from NC

    I’ll admit I’ve never even been to Washington State. Why is Jaxx’s statement funny?

  8. 8 Nathan

    I think the demise of the Democratic Party can easily be overstated. Even with the possibility of an embarrassing loss tomorrow, they’ll still control all three branches of government–and the worst reasonable projections for them are that after November they’ll have the Presidency and ~55 Senators, even if they somehow lose the House. Hardly sounds like a party that needs to pack it in.

    Nothing’s going the Dems’ way right now, but these swings happen. I remember after 2004, some pundits suggested we’d entered a new era of GOP hegemony. How’d that turn out?

  9. 9 Cliff

    Jaxx’s statements is funny because Sam Reid is old (late 60’s, early 70’s I think), boring (REALLY boring) and nobody likes him. He’s wildly unpopular with R’s for his acquiescence to all the incompetence and either borderline or outright corruption in the ‘04 election fiasco (and silence since in doing anything to fix KCE) and D’s don’t trust him or like him. Some old-line establishment folks might like him, but nobody else.

    Random Dude (R) would beat him in a Republican primary for any office other then Secretary of State. In the general, nobody would even know he’s running, he’d be an invisible man. He’s so boring he’d get people about as excited for his candidacy as Kathy Bates would get teenage boys getting excited about her naked.

    The only reason Reed even won in ‘08 was because his opponent was a nutjob with no electoral experience who proposed impossible things and managed to anger both the base of the D’s and the base of the R’s. Oh, and he also raised no money.

    Reichert could give Patty Murray a run for her money, so could Rob McKenna and Reagan Dunn, although it would have to be an enormous tidal wave to actually beat her (bigger then ‘94). But Sam Reed has about as much chance of winning a Senate seat as I do of dating Jessica Alba (read: none).

  10. 10 Bruce Webb

    “On the other hand, perhaps voters who were planning on voting third-party will migrate to Brown now that he looks like he could pull it off.”

    Well that could break the other way. Clearly Brown is no libertarian, no kind of populist, instead he is a movement conservative in the pockets of the banksters. If the Ron Paul folk, for whom the only then worse than a liberal Democrat is a Federal Reserve banker, decide that Brown has it in the bag, then rather and hold their noses for Brown might simply vote Libertarian. It is conceivable that a lot of low-information voters don’t even know a Libertarian is on the ballot to start with. Right now the polls are showing Kennedy from 2-6 points. If those voters stick and there are even 2% points of undecideds or soft Brown supporters that break his way you have theoretical 4-8% numbers. If you combine the top end of that range with maybe a point of lost support from the hair-curler remark, what looks like a 8-10 head to head blow out narrows a lot.

    I am not a poll guy but we have an election that just a few days ago was polling at a dead heat if you leave the wild card in the way of a third candidate out.

    I’m three thousand miles away and not involved in the campaign in any way, all I know is what I read in the blogosphere. But someone commented that the Kennedy family would bodily carry ever Democrat in Mass to the polls rather than let this one go. John Kennedy was elected to this seat in fricking 1953. Letting it go to a reliable Democrat is one thing, letting it go to a pretty boy ex-nude model is something else. That whirring sound is Joe Kennedy Sr. spinning in his grave.

    And yes I am just whistling past the graveyard here. But any tightening over the next 18 hours could make this a lot more interesting. Cause I find that 20% of Obama voters leaning to Brown kind of intriguing.

  11. 11 bloodstar

    Nathan Said:

    “I think the demise of the Democratic Party can easily be overstated. Even with the possibility of an embarrassing loss tomorrow, they’ll still control all three branches of government–and the worst reasonable projections for them are that after November they’ll have the Presidency and ~55 Senators, even if they somehow lose the House. Hardly sounds like a party that needs to pack it in.”

    wait, what? Congress and the Presidency I agree, but I must be pendant and wonder why you included the Supreme Court. 6 were put up via Republican Presidents and 3 by Democrats. Not exactly a majority by any count.

  12. 12 Cicero

    Bloodstar, I think about everyone will agree that Justice Stevens votes with the other 3 Democratic appointees, which would make the court a 5-4 majority for the Republicans.

  13. 13 Moira

    Cicero - still not a majority then if 5-4.

    I remember people writing off the GOP last year, now it seems some on the other side are making the same mistake by writing off the Dems. As some have said they will still control both houses and the Presidency. Maybe the house goes this year (a big maybe) but they have solid Senate majorities which the GOP would have killed for a few years ago (i.e. 55 plus senators). The economy picks up, healthcare is passed and then the public move on. Still see Obama winning in 2012 against Palin/Huckabee/Romney/T-Paw.

  14. 14 Nathan

    I misspoke. I meant these three: House, Senate, White House.

  15. 15 Cicero


    That’s what I stated…5-4 advantage for the Republicans.

  16. 16 hellian

    It sure is funny how people expect miracles from someone..I vote for a person not a party.Sorry about that folks I( do not walk in lockstep with anyone.I did not agree with some of Bush’s policies and do not agree with all of President Obama’s but it took decades for republican control to get us where we are today.If you think a libertarian is a good thing think again people.I just talked to a Ron Paul supporter and he was all up in the air about public schools and how we did not need them,how we did not need S.S. and medicare.He did not want to pay for those things. when I asked him if he would help the people of Hatti he said no let them help themselves or die That is Gods will LOL exactly what he said.I could not believe my ears and told him we had better end the discussion right there.Now this man Brown is being supported by many of the people that think like this young man who lives with his parents ,so has nothing to pay for

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