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5 Reasons Why Central Mass Will Decide the U.S. Senate Race

Thursday, September 13, 2012

 

The highly-contested race for the Massachusetts Senate seat between Republican incumbent Scott Brown and Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren will be won or lost in Worcester County and its surrounding areas this November.

Presidential Election Year

The Senate contest coincides with this year's Presidential election, and increased attention and participation on the national level effect the more local races as well.

President Barack Obama is predicted to beat Republican candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney handily in the Bay State, where Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one.

While many of Obama's votes will accrue to Warren, Brown has already proven that a Republican can win in the Commonwealth.

Ground Game

Turnout in Central Massachusetts played a big role in Brown's victory over Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley in the 2010 special election for the late Ted Kennedy's seat.

However, as Red Mass Group's Rob Eno points out, November 2012 is not January 2010.

"Unlike in 2010, the legislative candidates in Worcester county are coordinating with the Brown Victory campaign," he said.

"In November of 2012 we are going to match the Dems door for door."

The Mass GOP has opened more offices this time around, and their two Central Mass offices top the list in terms of activity.

John Walsh, chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, has said that his party made several mistakes two years ago, and its concerted effort to mobilize voters and open more field offices around the state is intended to head off those same errors this time around.

"We're going to be knocking on doors and calling voters across the Commonwealth to make sure they understand the clear choice in this election," said Matt House, communications advisor for the Mass Dems.

Independent Voters

More than half of registered voters in Worcester County are unenrolled with a political party, meaning that more than half of the area's votes are potentially up for grabs.

UMass-Lowell's Morgan Marietta has remarked on Brown's ability to communicate to both his Republican base and to centrist voters.

A new ad featuring the Senator shaking hands with President Obama exemplifies the everyman image, willing to cross the aisle in the name of getting things done.

Meanwhile, Warren has struggled to shed her Ivy League professor persona. Robert Boatright, a Political Science professor at Clark University, said one of the keys to Democratic success in Central Mass will be "how successfully Warren can combat the image as a part of the liberal elite, and how much she can show that she knows Massachusetts."

Her recent shout-out to struggling college students in Worcester during her speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte may go some way toward that goal.

Personalities Over Parties

In a similar vein, with Congressional approval ratings at record lows, who the candidate seems to matter much more to voters than what party they represent this election.

Charley Blandy, of Blue Mass Group, said Warren has room for improvement in this area.

"Her message is good but has gotten a bit stale -- it needs to be developed. She has a warm personality that simply needs to be shown to the public," he said.

"The message is tough; the messenger is pretty nice, actually."

Eno said Warren's message is to the left in an already left-leaning state, and the recent refocusing of her campaign ads is an effort to correct for that.

Across the aisle, Brown has had more success distancing himself from his party, jumping out ahead of Warren and many members of his own party in condemning the comments of Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin and calling for a more open stance on abortion within the national GOP.

Warren will have to crack that nice guy image, said Blandy, if she's going to win in November.

Localizing the Race

Brown had a bit of a head start in this arena, since his national party has done him no favors among voters in Massachusetts, but the increasingly frequent stops by both candidates in the center of the Commonwealth indicate they believe a local focus matters.

The "Democrats for Brown" coalition has rounded up names like that of former Mayor and current Worcester City Councilor Konnie Lukes, who offer more possess a more immediate recognition for voters than the upper house of Congress.

With Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty and the widely popular Congressman Jim McGovern taking on more visible roles in Warren's camp, Dems are bringing the race home more forcefully for Central Mass voters as well.

 

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