Dems, labor pour cash into Kennedy seat

Dems, labor pour cash into Kennedy seat

Democrats and their union allies are pumping resources into Massachusetts in an attempt to save their 60-seat Senate majority.

The seat in question, which belonged to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), has been one of the most reliable liberal votes in the Senate, but an influx of Democratic money and staff suggests the party is worried about holding it.

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The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) dropped more than a half-million dollars on a TV ad buy Tuesday, according to sources.

The DSCC and Democratic National Committee (DNC) have also sent high-level field and press staffers rushing up I-95 to bolster Attorney General Martha Coakley’s (D) campaign operation.

DNC deputy political director Maureen Garde has been dispatched to western Massachusetts, state party officials said. DNC press secretary Hari Sevugan and DSCC media consultant Michael Meehan are now based in Boston until the Jan. 19 vote.

President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama praises marathon runners Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei for 'remarkable examples of humanity's ability' Each of us has a role in preventing veteran suicide Why calls for impeachment have become commonplace MORE and Sen. John KerryJohn Forbes KerryHe who must not be named: How Hunter Biden became a conversation-stopper Rep. Joe Kennedy has history on his side in Senate bid Green groups line up behind Markey ahead of looming Kennedy fight MORE (D-Mass.) sent out fundraising e-mails.

Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO held an urgent conference call Monday with its national and Massachusetts-based political operation.

“We’re certainly taking this race very seriously. There is a significantly high level of activity,” Karen Ackerman, the AFL-CIO’s political director, told The Hill. “There’s no question that the race is tightening.

 “The stakes are really big here,” she said. “I think there’s no reason to take chances on losing the 60th vote in the Senate. I have no qualms about whatever resources either labor folks or others are spending.”

A Republican victory in next week’s special election would drastically alter the healthcare debate, possibly forcing Democrats to find another vote in order to bring the measure to the Senate floor.

A Boston Globe poll released Jan. 10 showed Coakley had the support of half of likely voters, with 35 percent backing state Sen. Scott Brown (R) and 5 percent supporting Independent candidate Joseph Kennedy (no relation to the famous family). Nine percent of respondents said they were undecided.

A Public Policy Polling survey released around the same time showed Brown leading Coakley by a point.

 “The reality is, though, that the Democrats have reason to be worried,” a Washington-based Republican strategist said on background. “They know that if they don’t win this race by … double digits in a deep-blue state like Massachusetts, it will send shockwaves across the political spectrum.”

The last time Massachusetts had a Republican senator was 1980.

 After the votes are counted, it doesn’t matter what the margin of victory is, Ackerman said.

 “I know the Republicans are trying to set this up as ‘Anything under a 10-point spread is a defeat for the Democrats,’ ” she said. “Whether she gets elected by a five-point difference or by a 30-point difference, the spin on that is not what’s important.” Having a reliable 60th Democratic vote in the Senate is the bottom line, Ackerman noted.

 One factor that could affect the Democrats’ vote percentage is the presence of a third-party candidate with a familiar last name. Kennedy is not just on the ballot, but on the debate stage as well.

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He is running on a promise to cut spending across the board while ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the candidates’ debate Monday night, moderator David Gergen asked Coakley if she regretted her decision to allow a third-party candidate to share the stage — something that Kerry and Ted Kennedy never permitted.

 “I think it was a very good decision and I think that Joe, as you can see tonight, has added a lot to the debate,” Coakley said. “People who are on the ballot should be able to get up when it’s a public-sponsored debate and have voters judge them as they would Scott or me or anyone else who gets signatures to get on the ballot.”

 Harvard Professor David King says that this Kennedy is unlikely to be much of a factor because turnout in a special election will be limited to motivated voters familiar with the candidates.

 “In a high-turnout race, he might have people thinking that that’s the other Joe Kennedy,” he said. “This is going to be a low-turnout race. It’s going to be about field operations.”

 In that respect, Coakley will have an advantage. In addition to the help her campaign is getting from Washington Democrats, Ackerman said the AFL-CIO national organization and its 100 local affiliates will be making calls and sending out mailings.

“We have a substantial role to play,” she said, adding that there are some 400,000 union members in the state. “The labor vote will be an important vote in this race.”

 Sources say Democrats became spooked by the willingness of independent Republican groups to spend money in the deepest-blue of states. The Iowa-based American Future Fund, which has also run ads targeting Democratic senators in Arkansas and North Dakota, spent close to $400,000 on an ad saying Coakley wants to raise taxes. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also went up with a “substantial” pro-Brown TV ad this week.

“Scott Brown is bringing a lot of national right-wing money and energy into Massachusetts,” said John Walsh, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party.

 For the first time in recent memory, Democrats are uncertain about holding both Massachusetts Senate seats.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen on Jan. 19,” Coakley said at the end of Monday night’s debate. “But I’m asking voters to vote for one of the three of us — hopefully me.”