Sunday, October 18, 2009

Senate Candidate's Strategy

Just wanted to post a quick update - no breaking news on either the governor or senator front. But I do want to give a quick word on what I see as the strategies of the contending candidates for this office.

Martha Coakley
So far I am sticking with my prediction that the sitting AG should win both the primary and general election. She is picking up the endorsements of the Democratic establishment - sitting members of the legislature and organized labor. She is raising funds at a decent clip. She is way ahead in the early polls. In terms of campaign strategy she is doing what any conventional front runner should do - play it safe. If this were a football game, it is the fourth quarter with 3 minutes left. Coakley has the ball and is up by two touchdowns. She is trying to run out the clock. This makes sense - unless she makes a metaphoric fumble and either says or does something controversial and damaging to her campaign. This is unlikely to happen since she has been in a number of campaigns for elective office and knows how to play the game. Luckily for Coakley, she also has three primary opponents which divides the opposition. Her rather icy personality and her active avoidance of some elements of the news media may not help her, but her political organization, support from women's groups, and her high name recognition should make this a relatively smooth cruise to the US Senate.

Odds of winning the primary - 80%.

Michael Capuano
The former Sommerville mayor and current 8th District US Representative is trying like heck to pump up his name recognition outside of the immediate Boston area. He is also trying to be a "Democrat's Democrat" by running as far to the left as he can in the hopes that the liberal activists who typically dominate these primaries will swing to him. This would be a decent approach if it was a two person race, but it isn't. I expect that Alan Khazei will siphon off some of that liberal support and the Coakley juggernaut is simply to large to stop. Capuano is going to continue to throw political haymakers and show his fiery passion in the hopes of forcing a Coakley "fumble". However I place his odds at no more than 20% to win the primary and these odds will slowly diminish unless Coakley makes a major mistake over the next few weeks and gives him an opening.

Steve Pagliuca
As part-owner of the Boston Celtics, Pagliuca is spending a LOT of money to advertise everywhere under the sun. His background as a venture capitalist and former Republican (he became a Democrat about 10 years ago) will not be helpful in winning the primary. He is targeting Independent voters and the more conservative Democrats, although his most recent ads show him running to the left on almost all the issues - his research must show that those positions poll well. However, he will need massive numbers of independents to show up for the December 8 primary (unlikely to happen for a special election - unlikelier on a potentially cold and snowy December day) and I just can't see him pulling this off. I think this run for him is about getting experience in the wild Massachusetts political arena and raising his name recognition for a future statewide race.

Odds of winning the primary - 0% (yes, he really has no chance this time around)

Alan Khazei
As founder of the successful City Year program 20 years ago, Kazei has a good reputation and has been able to raise more money than expected. He will do relatively well in ultra-liberal areas (Amherst, Cambridge, Brookline, etc) thus taking votes that likely would have gone to Capuano. Expect him to run a poitive and clean campaign for third place. As with Palgliuca, this race is a way for Khazei to gain experience in running a campaign and setting up for a future run.

Odds of winning the primary - 2%

Prediction of results for the December 8 primary (ok - really out on a limb, but here goes...)

Coakley 49%
Capuano 32%
Pagliuca 11%
Khazei 8%

Scott Brown
(Full disclosure, the Prof plans to vote for Brown in the general election)
The sitting Republican State Senator will face the winner of the Democratic primary on January 19, 2010 and should be able to pull 35-40% of the vote against Coakley (some Capuano voters may end up voting for Brown as a protest). He is going to try to run as a moderate-conservative and pick up independent votes. However, the "R" next to his name in this deep blue state (and the knowledge that he would not support a still-popular President Obama) makes it very unlikely for him to win this. If Capuano upsets Coakley, Brown may do a bit better and win some disgruntled Coakley voters, but I just can't see him taking this. I will give him odds of 10% for the general election as there is always the chance for a major upset - but I just don't see it happening.

Stay tuned as this race is likely to get more lively as the primary date draws near.


The Prof

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