Democrats' 60 hangs by thread

Democrats' 60 hangs by thread

Democrats pulled out all the stops in Massachusetts on Monday but are bracing for a loss in Tuesday’s special election.

The final day of one of the biggest special elections in United States history was marked by even more help from President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaGeorge W. Bush honors father at benefit for hurricane victims Dem senator: ‘I miss every one of’ our last 5 presidents All five living former presidents appear at hurricane relief benefit concert MORE, continued Democratic attacks and a growing sense that Scott Brown is primed to rob Democrats of their 60th vote in the Senate, just six months after they secured it and with a healthcare bill hanging in the balance.

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The latest polling in the race shows the GOP state senator with leads in the single digits or tied, but some predict the swing in momentum means he’ll win Tuesday, and possibly by a comfortable margin. That would be a stunning result for Democrats, who were hardly alone when they failed to foresee a tough race for the seat of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).
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 four days.

“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 that 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. That didn’t mean they stopped trying, however.

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

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. Democrats and observers projected even a narrow win would be enough to scare away vulnerable Democratic incumbents, and one deserter could kill the bill.

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

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

Massachusetts Republican National Committeeman Ron Kaufman wasn’t declaring the race over, but he said things are unlike they’ve ever been in the commonwealth.

“I’ve been playing this game since the second Lincoln administration, and they always have the advantage on the ground,” Kaufman said. “But our ground game is the best by about 10 times that we’ve seen in Massachusetts.”

Kaufman projected anything from a three- or four-point Coakley win to a big win for Brown. Riding aboard Brown’s campaign bus Monday, he said the campaign is taking nothing for granted.

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 KerryJohn Forbes KerryFor the sake of national security, Trump must honor the Iran deal Bernie Sanders’s 1960s worldview makes bad foreign policy DiCaprio: History will ‘vilify’ Trump for not fighting climate change MORE (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.

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“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 right.”

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 repeatedly to criticize him for apparently laughing at a crude remark made by an audience member at a rally.

The party has been trying to tag Brown with anything it can in hopes that something sticks, but Democrats say privately that he has mostly gotten a free pass.

While Coakley was rallying with Obama on Sunday, Brown has focused on sports fans in the closing days. On Monday, he shook hands before a Boston Bruins game.

The day before, he brought out some ex-New England Patriots players and former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling for a rally.

Schilling’s presence in the campaign is particularly notable. Coakley, in one of a few gaffes she has made in recent weeks, had suggested the Republican pitching legend is a New York 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 and an appearance, sent an e-mail to his list of supporters and shot a TV ad for Coakley. It is Obama’s highest level of involvement in a Democratic campaign since he was elected president, and he is expected to be judged by her success in the coming days.

Coakley has also rallied with former President Bill ClintonBill ClintonAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert The Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE.