Democrats brace for what would be huge loss in deep-blue Massachusetts

Democrats are bracing for a loss in Tuesday’s special election in deep-blue Massachusetts.

The latest polling in the race shows Republican Scott Brown with leads in the single digits, but some pollsters are predicting the swings in momentum suggest he’ll win Tuesday by double digits. That would be a stunning result for Democrats.

A survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling released late Sunday had Brown ahead of Democrat Martha Coakley 51-46, while a Suffolk University poll from late last week had Brown ahead 50-46.

Research 2000, which conducted polls for liberal websites both last week and over the weekend, showed the race a tie, but with Brown gaining eight points in a matter of days.

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“It looks like a win of better than 10 percent,” Suffolk pollster David Paleologos said on MSNBC on Monday. “All three bellwethers show a double-digit lead [for Brown]. They all show at least a 10-point lead. I think that Brown, from our statewide poll, has continued momentum.”

Massachusetts Democratic consultant Michael Goldman said his heart had Coakley winning narrowly, but that he puts plenty of stock in the forecast by Paleologos that Brown will be the winner on Tuesday.

He and other Democrats criticized Coakley’s campaign for everything from waiting to go on the air to failing to define the opponent early on. Most agree that after a relatively benign primary race, which ended in early December, Coakley’s staff was slow to recognize impending doom in the general election.

“Three weeks ago, she was the best campaigner in Massachusetts,” Goldman said. “I am astounded that the public image of her is so out of step with who she is and the kind of official she’s been.”

Party leaders over the weekend put out word that they expect to lose the seat long held by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). That didn’t mean they stopped trying, however.

President Barack Obama campaigned with Coakley on Sunday, and the Democratic nominee launched a rare ad featuring the president on Monday afternoon.

The result in the race will have a huge impact on healthcare reform, as a Coakley loss would deprive Democrats of a 60th vote in the Senate.

“If Brown wins, Democrats probably lose the healthcare bill,” said Goldman.

While Democrats tried to lower expectations as much as possible, Republicans remained cautiously optimistic, saying in private that they like their chances.

While polling spelled bad news for Democrats, they hold massive registration and infrastructure advantages in the state, and special elections often are unpredictable.

Jim Gomes, a former staffer for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), said Brown has all the momentum on his side, and it will be a matter of how much better the Democratic turnout operation is than its counterpart.

“You have to ask yourself who the pollsters are screening in and out,” Gomes said. “Polls that show Obama with 50-50 favorability in Massachusetts just don’t strike me as credible.”

The most recent polls in Massachusetts have shown Obama’s approval on par with his disapproval, while during the primary campaign his approval was in the 60s.

The tail end of the campaign has been marked by attacks on Brown’s record and remarks. Democrats on Monday sought to criticize him for apparently laughing at a crude remark made by an audience member at a rally.

While Coakley was rallying with Obama on Sunday, Brown brought out former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling. Coakley, in one of a few gaffes she has made in recent weeks, had suggested the Republican pitching legend is a Yankees fan.

In reminding voters of Coakley’s comments, Schilling assured, “I’m not a Yankee fan.”

Obama’s ad featured footage of the president’s visit on Sunday, in which he details Coakley’s work as state attorney general. The president has now done a Web video, a robocall, an appearance and a TV ad for Coakley. It is Obama's highest level of involvement in a Democratic campaign since he was elected president.