Sunday, December 13, 2009

Brown vs. Coakley

Although the Prof plans to support Brown in this race, I always call them as I see them without the lens of ideology clouding my vision...

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... :)


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.

Coakley 57
Brown 43


The Prof

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Primary Postscript

The primary race ended pretty much as the punditry though it would with a landslide win for Martha Coakley. She had multiple advantages over her rivals...advantages good for any person seeking office.

Name recognition - critical in any race, especially a short race where her opponents simply could not distinguish themselves.

Money - she was well funded and drew a lot of money from left-leaning liberal groups (Emily's List) across the nation.

A committed organization - having run statewide in the past, Coakley had an apparatus in place whilst her opponents had to build them in many cases from scratch.

The Sisterhood - being a woman running against three men certainly distinguished her further and helped her in terms of the voters who vote in Massachusetts Democratic primaries.

Additionally, Coakley benefited from being on message, making very few mistakes, and being able to remain above the fray as her opponents fired shots at each other. It is very hard for an opponent to pick on a female candidate (Rick Lazio vs. Hillary Clinton in the 2000 NY Senate race comes to mind).

A few thoughts on her vanquished opponents...

Capuano - played the tough city kid a bit too much and potentially turned off certain voters. He played Mr. Insider who brings home the bacon - this plays well in certain areas, but also reinforces perceptions of the "old boy network" Capuano has a lifetime US Rep seat (although he did really underperformed in his own district).

Khazie - ran as the idealistic reforming outsider and nudged Pagliuca into last place in the process. He did surprisingly well in the wealthy liberal areas in the immediate Boston suburbs and I think may have laid the groundwork for a future run, perhaps for a statewide office as there may be a number of open seats this upcoming November.

Pagliuca - someone has calculated that he spent about $150 per vote in his last place finish. Classic story that money does not always buy happiness - or a Senate seat. He was hurt by past support for Mitt Romney which did not endear him to liberal primary voters. Additionally, he took many liberal positions that seemed it bit like "me-tooism".

Wonder if Steven Lynch is regretting his decision not to run. As the only conservative Democrat in this race he may have made it more interesting...

Bottom line is that Coakley's advantages were going to be hard to overcome by anyone in this type of primary. She racked up large victories in the voter-rich suburbs around Boston and in Western Massachusetts. If it had been a two-way race between her and Capuano, it may have been closer as there would have been a different dynamic in place.

Onwards to the final election!

The Prof

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Primary Results

Results are in - no surprises except that Coakley really outdid what many were thinking. Capouano, although winning some urban strongholds (Boston, Cambridge, Somerville) did not win by enough to offset massive Coakley wins nearly everywhere else in the state. Lets also congratulate Khazei for winning the thriving metropolis of Alford out in the Berkshire Mountains.

I will post on the Brown/Coakley race in the next couple of days and have a more extensive post-mortem on tonight's results.

Results (and my final predictions)

Coakley 47% (42)
Capuano 28% (34)
Khazei 13% (14)
Pagliuca 12% (10)

Brown 89% (77)
Robinson 11% (23)


The Prof

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Final Predictions for MA Senate Primary

Just a short note here - if I nail these numbers exactly, I will kick myself for not playing Megabucks this week...

Final Predictions
Coakley 42%
Capuano 34%
Khazei 14%
Pagliuca 10%

And lets not forget the Republicans...they are having a primary too.

Brown 77%
Robinson 23%

Prediction of results from my October 18 post
Coakley 49%
Capuano 32%
Pagliuca 11%
Khazei 8%

I see Coakley winning by a comfortable margin - however, if turnout is low it will be a bit reduced since the most committed liberal voters may skew slightly toward Capuano. Her opponents have been trying to make her fumble, but she has maintained possession and is ready to put the game away.

Some in the Capuano camp have been pointing to internal campaign polls showing a tightening race. These races typically do tighten a bit prior to the election, but I think the Capuanao folks are touting this to try to gin up their supporters prior to election day. I would be very surprised if this race goes much past 9:00 PM without a winner being called.

Turnout will be very light. Special election primaries typically don't generate high turnout, especially when there are two weeks of Christmas shopping left.

Watch for the post mortem later this week. I will be working on it Tuesday evening as the results roll in!


The Prof