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Negative Attacks Taking Toll On Brown and Warren

Monday, October 08, 2012

 

Both Republican Senator Scott Brown and Democratic hopeful Elizabeth Warren have seen their favorability among likely voters take a hit in the increasingly negative Massachusetts Senate race.

Warren holds a five-point lead over the incumbent Senator, 50-45, according to a new survey by the Western New England University Polling Institute with the Springfield Republican released Sunday. The results were in line with the Polling Institute's previous poll, conducted September 6 through 13, which found Warren ahead of Brown by 6 points, 50-44.

Favorability Suffering From Negative Ads

However, the new poll of 440 likely voters, conducted from September 28 through October 4, found a negative shift in the favorability ratings of both candidates.

The Democrat's unfavorability rating has ticked up to 41 percent, up 8 points from the 33 percent recorded in the September survey. Warren lost 3 points in terms of favorability, dropping from 53 percent to an even 50 percent.

Brown's numbers shifted as well, with his favorability falling from 54 percent to 52 percent since the last poll and his unfavorability increasing by 4 points to 36 percent from 32 percent last month.

“The negative ads that each campaign has aired recently may be hitting their targets,” said Tim Vercellotti, director of the Polling Institute and a professor of Political Science at Western New England University.

The Warren campaign released two new radio ads last week, continuing its attacks on Brown. The first ad highlights the Republican Senator's choice of Antonin Scalia when asked to name a model Supreme Court Justice during his second debate with Warren in Lowell. The radio spot focuses on Scalia's opposition to Roe V. Wade and the Justice's belief that the Constitution does not protect women from discrimination.

In the second ad, workers and advocates criticize Brown for using his opponent's legal work on a case involving Travelers Insurance and asbestos victims, characterizing the Senator's attacks as a misleading attempt to score political points.

A new television ad from Warren, however, left the Republican Senator unmentioned, opting instead to focus on the candidate's work as a consumer advocate and her willingness to fight for working people against big banks and corporations.

Meanwhile, the Brown campaign rolled out two new web videos. The first goes after Warren for her legal work for LTV Steel in a case where the steel conglomerate attempted to get out of providing health care benefits to the company's retirees.

"Sports Legends for Scott," on the other hand, follows up on Brown's endorsement from Celtics great Bob Cousy in Worcester with words of support from the Hall of Famer as well as former Celtics Dave Cowens and JoJo White and Patriots stars Drew Bledsoe, Steve DeOssie and Fred Smerlas.

A Balancing Act Until Election Day

Dennis "DJ" Deeb, a professor of Political Science at UMass-Lowell, had previously warned of the potential cost of going negative, arguing that the attacks could end up backfiring if voters becomes so turned off that they blank the Senate portion of their ballots on Election Day.

"I don't see the positive side to it," he said.

At the same time, an opponent's negative attacks all but necessitates that a candidate respond in kind.

"You have to fight fire with fire in a political campaign," said Deeb.

But with less than 30 days until November 6, Brown and Warren still face a balancing act as they try to win more voters to their corner and hang onto the ones they already have.

“The candidates cannot take their supporters for granted,” Vercellotti said.

“With a month to go before the election, Warren and Brown have not fully closed the deal with voters.” 

 

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