Two months ago, I thought Scott Brown would eke out a slim victory, but barring a GOP miracle Elizabeth Warren is well-poised to win the seat. However the momentum in the campaign has been in Warren's favor and she will ride President Obama's Massachusetts coattails to a convincing win on Tuesday.
Why is Senator Brown, a likeable moderate Republican with high favorability and the advantages of incumbency going to lose - and by a solid margin?
- The single biggest issue is the "R" next to his name. Warren's campaign has successfully tied him to the "radical" tea party Republicans (with a huge assist from Todd Akin in Missouri) and have run TV spot after spot that the Senate must stay Democratic to protect women's rights and the middle class. This has resonated well in liberal-leaning Massachusetts. The socially conservative national GOP just does not play well here. The national party serves to drag down appeal to independents, especially in this cycle. The dearth of moderate Republicans harms the GOP yet again in Massachusetts.
- Mitt Romney will likely lose Massachusetts by between 18 and 25 points (I think it will be about 60-40) thus Brown will need many Democrats (a couple of hundred thousand) to spit their votes. Some will, but many more especially in urban areas will "vote the ticket". Additionally, voter turnout driven by the presidential contest will be much higher than the 2010 special election which Brown won. Remember, he only won by 4 points against a very poor opponent.
- Warren has connected well with the Democratic core groups of suburban college educated females, academics (found in abundance in Massachusetts), working class traditional Democrats - her anti-Wall Street message resonates very well here, and most importantly independents.
- Warren is very well funded. This has allowed her to become rapidly known to voters.
- Generally, Warren was able to best Brown in the debates.
- Democrats are genuinely enthusiastic about her. This has manifested itself in a massive GOTV effort that will prove successful.
- Although her earlier TV ads were showing Warren appearing as cold and lecturing, her campaign made a masterful switch to humanize her and she is now approaching Brown in general likability.
- Brown over-focused on the dubious Native American scandal. The GOP base and talk radio eats this stuff up, but those ain't the folks Brown needs to win. I think it distracted him and ended up making Warren a much more sympathetic candidate.
- Brown has simply seemed off his game for much of this campaign. He has not campaigned as the happy warrior of 2010, but with a slew of negative advertising that has come off as cranky. This alone tells me that he is running behind; candidates who are ahead usually don't go so negative.
One Republican bright spot will be the victory for Richard Tsei in the North Shore's 6th district over incumbent (and scandal tarred) John Tierney. This district is relatively conservative and Tsei is a socially liberal, fiscally conservative Republican - the type who can occasionally win in Massachusetts. However, if Tierney was not tainted by scandal, it would be the other way around.
All other Democratic congressional incumbents face either no or negligible opposition and the open seat south of Boston will handily be won by Joe Kennedy III. Look for the Democrats to also turn out some of the Republican state legislators who were elected in 2010. Very tough being a Massachusetts Republican in a presidential election year!
The Prof's Massachusetts Predictions:
6th Congressional District
Final Presidential predictions due in a couple of days...want to see Friday's jobs report!