[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.