The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Two Readers, Making the Case for GOP Optimism in Massachusetts


A couple of readers aren’t that pleased about my assessment of the chances of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts’ special election in the Senate, and one of my regulars says via Twitter that he’s worried that I’ve been “hanging out with RINOs & GOP establishment too long.”

Hey, folks, I’d love to tell you a Republican win is well within reach in Massachusetts. But the Democrat is fairly well-known and has run statewide before, the Republican is relatively little-known, and, as noted, Democrats start with a big advantage in the pool of possible voters. One of my points is that Scott Brown, his campaign, and the GOP grassroots up there could do everything right and still fall short; the other is that this bid represents a longshot and the RNC and NRSC should budget accordingly. Don’t ignore the race, but don’t fool yourself about the likelihood of these expenditures paying off in a 41st Republican vote.

Still, two readers make the case for optimism. From a reader in Cambridge:

I’m not saying you’re wrong, but you cannot believe the number of Democrats that I’ve talked to over the last month who intend to vote for him. Martha Coakley is not a formidable candidate by any stretch of the imagination.  She is running solely on the “D” next to her name. It will be interesting to see what happens if and when a poll comes out showing Brown within 10%. If that does come to pass, I would hope that the national party would blitz the state over the final two weeks prior to the election.

And this case, which almost persuades me, from another reader in state:

First, It’s a special election. The few times Republicans have won elections in Massachusetts, it has been in special elections.
  Scott Brown won his election to the State Senate in 2004 in a special election. On the day of the 2004 Presidential Primary. When John Kerry was on the Ballot. And George W. Bush had no opponent. In 2007, in the 5th CD unknown Republican Jim Oganowski got 48% of the vote vs. Paul Tsongas widow in Paul Tsongas old Congressional seat after being out-spent 5-1 by the Democrat, having zero name ID, and having outside groups spend another $1.5 Million. Republicans over-perform our numbers in Special Elections.
Second, the number of votes there are in the Democratic Primary is usually the high-water mark of what the Democrat will get. In 2001 special congressional election, Steven Lynch got more votes in the Democratic Primary than he received in the General Election.  Fewer people voted for Nikki Tsongas in 2007 in the general than voted in the Democratic Primary.
Third, Coakley has basically shut-down and set the cruise control. She thinks she’s already won. Her base is no longer motivated. Scott is Senator 41. Obama’s Agenda screeches to a halt if Scott is elected . . .
This election is about GOTV and turnout.
The GOP raises millions every cycle from Massachusetts. We realize we’re  not target #1.  But is spending a few hundred thousand on a GOTV effort targeting Registered R’s and Independents who vote R to much to ask? Is Mailing an Absentee Ballot Application to R’s and R-Leaning U’s (Unenrolleds, as in “not enrolled in a party” as in “independents”) that has been done to great effect in the past to much to ask?
Is $30,000 to call every GOP household to remind them to vote to much to ask?
Steele said the RNC was going to help us compete in the Northeast. Where is even the TOKEN help?
I find an Oganowski scenario (beating expectations and making the Democrat sweat) pretty plausible. But I’ll be among those stunned if Brown pulls this off.
  UPDATE: From a reader in Marlboro:
Although it is a long-shot race, it is not out of the question Republican Scott Brown could win. The real king makers in Massachusetts are the independents. The special election is expected to be low turnout. The independents in NJ and VA broke two thirds for the Republicans last month. It is not inconceivable Mass’ independents could move the same way. Intangibles play a part too. Coakley is trying to run out the clock, avoiding one on one debates and acting as if she’s already won. She is also as bland a political persona as you can find anywhere in American politics. Inevitability and blandness are not surefire ingredients to get out the vote in a low turnout race. If Brown loses a close race, the national Republican committees will rue the day they shortchanged this special election in the bluest of blue states.

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