Image via WikipediaAs the clock runs out in the final days leading up to the January 19 special election to fill the vacant Massachusetts senate seat left by the passing of Ted Kennedy, democratic hopeful Martha Coakley's lead in the polls is slipping away. Democrats in the Bay State, including Coakley, have assumed that any democrat could win the seat, held by the Lion of the Senate for over three decades, with minimal effort and that's exactly what they've been giving it.
Public Policy Polling (PPP) reported on Friday, "At this point a plurality of those planning to turn out oppose the health care bill. The massive enthusiasm gap we saw in Virginia is playing itself out in Massachusetts as well. Republican voters are fired up and they're going to turn out. Martha Coakley needs to have a coherent message up on the air over the last ten days that her election is critical to health care passing and Ted Kennedy's legacy- right now Democrats in the state are not feeling a sense of urgency."
A Rasmussen Report survey published last week shows only a 9-point gap between Brown and Coakley, which the democrat has yet to see as a big enough threat to merit a change in strategy. The Brown campaign has also outspent Coakly by a significant margin.
I mention this next bit to illustrate just how desperate -- and motivated -- the GOP is right now. Republicans prefer the pretty package that is Bob Brown, the way they flock to the human vacuum tube that is Sarah Palin.
In September, the blog Gawker reported that the rabidly anti-gay Brown had posed for a nude photo spread in Cosmo back in 1982. The Brown campaign brushed it off as a youthful indiscretion, telling Newsweek's blog The Gaggle, that it would be different for a female politician. If a woman poses nude for a magazine, it speaks to her character, while a man who does it can chalk it up to "boys will be boys". The Gaggle piece and the Coakley campaign have never taken brown's candidacy seriously and that seems to be backfiring on them.
Bob Brown was taken to task by the press back in February, '07 when his eldest daughter, Ayla, was a contestant on American Idol. Some high school kids posted derogatory comments on Facebook about Ayla that included the F word. Shortly after the post was discovered, Brown was asked to speak at a high school where he used to opportunity to address the offending piece, reading sections of the post word for word, including the aforementioned F-Bomb. Critics accused Brown of bad judgment, while he defended himself for making a point about the damage that can be done by hate speech.
All of this aside, although voter turnout is typically lower during off-year and special elections, republican conservatives historically turn out in higher numbers during mid-term cycles than democrats. This trend, combined with anti-Obama backlash could create a perfect storm for a GOP victory in the democratic stronghold of New England.
Even with a majority in both houses on the hill, now is not the time for democrats to rest on our laurels. The Teabagger movement, for all its lunacy, has been gaining momentum nationwide and can no longer be taken lightly. While a Brown victory in Massachusetts may not signal the beginning of another Republican Revolution, it serves as a reminder that there is no such thing as a sure thing. If Martha Coakley hopes to pull off a senate victory and continue the legacy of Ted Kennedy, she needs to show that when it comes to Bob Brown, there is no "there" there.