Coakley should win the general election on January 19 with little difficulty. Her advantages are tremendous and Brown has a very high hill to climb.
The Republican brand name in Massachusetts is somewhere between sharks and grave robbers. Although Brown is a moderate by Republican standards (in fact the Massachusetts Republican party would be considered quite liberal on social issues by national Republicans) the "R" after his name conjures up images of Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush, and Rush Limbaugh for many voters. Massachusetts is as deep blue as they come and while Republicans occasionally have success running for state office based on fiscal issues, Massachusetts has not elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972 and none to the House since 1994. No real surprise that Scott Brown's website does not say the word Republican on it...
The voter numbers are simply unfavorable. With just 11% of voters registered as Republicans, Scott Brown has to attract the lion's share of independents and some conservative Democrats into his column. The problem for Brown is that turnout will likely be low and consist of partisans on both sides. Coakley simply has the advantage here.
Name recognition heavily favors Coakley. The majority of the media focus was on the Democrats for the primary. Brown is still relatively unknown and has the challenge of crafting a message during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Coakley has the fundraising advantage and will benefit from many national groups running issue ads supportive of her. Brown has benefited from not tapping into his resources during the primary, but 'tis interesting to note that the national Republican Party has yet to pony up any funds for this race.
Can Brown make this a race? I think he can make it a competitive race if several things happen - however they are unlikely to fall into place for him.
- Force Coakley to debate several times and hope she makes a mistake or misstatement. Coakley (smartly) is lobbying to get libertarian-leaning candidate Joe Kennedy (not one of THE Kennedys) included in the debates to take the focus off of her. Brown needs to get Coakley one on one to draw a contrast. With a third person on the stage that is a tougher thing to accomplish.
- Brown needs to go after her on specific issues and on her tenure as AG. He needs to give voters pause before automatically supporting the Democratic nominee.
- Brown is well advised not to focus on the social issues and to keep the focus on fiscal issues. Coakley is going to go after him on women's issues and abortion which is designed to keep his campaign on the defensive.
- Brown needs to run as an outsider and not beholden to any interest, although as a sitting state senator he may have trouble making this case.
In the end I think that it should be a fairly easy win for Coakley. Her strategy is going to be appearing senatorial, motivating her base voters, and minimizing the debates (she will have to agree to a couple, but one may be on a Sunday Morning or perhaps on New Years Day). She is the front runner and has to avoid coughing up the football at the end of the game. Given her discipline over the past few months, I don't see a high likelihood of her making any mistakes.
Her only real potential problem (baring a major mistake) will be the appearance her appearing like she is coasting and the anointed Senator in Waiting. This would play into Brown's strategy of painting her as an insider.
I have not seen any recent head to head polling yet, but some ought to be out shortly. Based on my "gut perspective" without the benefit of recent data I will make an early forecast. Yeah, yeah we ended up with 6 inches of partly cloudy... :)Prediction
Statewide voter turnout is about 35%. Coakley wins heavily in the cities of Boston, Worcester, New Bedford, and Fall River along with the inner suburbs surrounding Boston. She also pulls impressive margins in the Berkshires and the Pioneer Valley. Much of Middlessex County and the Route 128 belt of communities should also come in for her. She also should do quite well in socially liberal Metrowest.
Brown should win many of the communities in the more conservative Merrimack Valley region. I also think he performs well in Worcester County with solid wins in the communities along the 495 belt. Brown will win some of the medium and smaller towns on Cape Cod and in Plymouth, Norfolk, and Essex Counties. But it simply will not be enough do overcome the vote totals that Coakley can amass in her base regions.