Monday, January 18, 2010

Notes on Politics: In Snow & Sleet, Mass. Senate Race is Scalding Hot

With the exception of a few years of living in the Washington, D.C. area in the 1990s, I've lived in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts the rest of the time. In all that time, I cannot recall a general election for the U.S. Senate or Congress being this close. It's Massachusetts for God's sake, one of the bluest states in the union. Sure, there was a lot of national attention paid to GOP Gov. Bill Weld's 1996 attempt to unseat U.S. Senator John Kerry (Kerry prevailed with 52 percent), as there was when Republican Mitt Romney took on Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1994 (Kennedy won 58 percent of the vote). But those races weren't nearly as close as is this current contest between Democrat Martha Coakley, the state's attorney general, and Republican Scott Brown, a state senator.

Amid all manner of nasty political ads which air once every five seconds on radio and TV (I adore politics and even I'm sick of them, never want to hear the word "lockstep" again) and the tongue-clucking about Coakley's assertion that Brown supporter Curt Schilling is a Yankees fan (in Red Sox Nation of all places!), this once sleepy campaign where the Democrat (any Democrat, didn't matter who) was considered a shoe-in, so much so that Coakley didn't really campaign much last month, is now too close to call. And it's serving as a proxy for all things Obama and is considered to hold the key to the health care vote. If Coakley, once the presumptive favorite, doesn't prevail, pundits everywhere are saying this is bad news for the president who visited Boston yesterday to try to help boost the campaign.

I still can't believe it. Take a gander at the political reporters from all the big media outlets on TV who have to do live stand-ups outside in this New England January chill, in front of cars coated in salt and sand. They seem surprised and almost giddy, to have something this volatile to report. I was astounded to see the front page of the New York Times today feature a woman who'd been holding a Brown sign in Marlborough, MA who I drove by twice on Saturday while driving my youngest kid to hockey.

Here are the covers of the two biggest papers in Massachusetts, indicating that the stakes are indeed high for tomorrow's vote from the Boston Herald (where I used to work and for whom I used to blog) and the Boston Globe.

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