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Will Brown Benefit From “New” Romney?

Saturday, October 06, 2012

 

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney played strongly to the middle in his first debate with President Barack Obama, and some observers say the positive response to the former Massachusetts Governor may aid Republican Senator Scott Brown in his close race with Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren.

Romney's performance Wednesday night was universally praised and served to excite those on the right, while Obama's lackluster showing seemed to let some of the wind out of the Democratic Party's sails.

Trickle-Down Voternomics

"A rising tide raises all the ships," said Darrell West, vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution.

"If Romney runs better nationally, it could add a few percentage points to Republicans in various states."

In the Massachusetts Senate race, Brown and Warren have been neck-and-neck in recent polls, with the Democrat enjoying a slight edge after surging in the weeks following her primetime speech at the party's national convention in Charlotte last month.

Romney, on the other hand, trailed Obama by 18 points in the Bay State, 57-39, in a September survey by Public Policy Polling.

While a victory in the Commonwealth for the former Governor is out of the question, closing the gap between himself and Obama by a few points is not, and a few points may be all Brown needs to secure another six years in Washington.

"Any votes for Romney are also votes for Brown, even if Romney still has no chance of winning Massachusetts," said Robert Boatright, a professor of Political Science at Clark University.

"That doesn't change his strategy -- it's not as if anyone excited about Romney is going to vote for Warren, but he still needs to appeal to ticket splitters."

An Easier Ticket To Split

Brown has made a habit of playing up his independence and bipartisanship throughout his campaign, seemingly distancing himself from the national Republican Party. He has not made any campaign appearances with Romney nor featured him in any campaign ads, opting instead to showcase Massachusetts Democrats who crossed the aisle to support the Senator's reelection bid and even using a clip of Brown shaking hands with Obama and snagging a "Good job," from the President.

Meanwhile, Warren has attempted to play up her opponent's party affiliation, using the threats of a Romney-Ryan administration and a Republican-controlled Senate to try to win back Democratic voters who would otherwise cross the aisle and cast their ballots for Brown.

With registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans 3 to 1 in Massachusetts and the state's unenrolled voters outnumbering both parties combined, Brown needs substantial support from outside his own party.

According to UMass-Lowell Political Science Professor Morgan Marietta, an ascendent Romney actually improves the Senator's odds for getting voters to come across.

"Scott Brown is relying on Massachusetts voters to split their tickets, which is more persuasive when the Republican brand is doing well," Marietta said.

"And Elizabeth Warren's attempt to tie Brown to Romney has less bite when the Republican contender is perceived as a highly competent and calm debater."

Senate Still The Focus For Mass

Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women & Politics Institute at American University, said Romney and Obama's respective performances in the first presidential debate were not likely to matter in the Bay State Senate race.

"Even if Romney 'won' the debate, it’s only one important event of many between now and Election Day," she said.

"And we can bet that the Obama campaign is retooling a bit and that he will perform better in the next two debates."

Regardless of how much ground Romney gains in the next month, Massachusetts will not become a competitive state in the presidential race, giving the national parties little reason to invest time and resources in the Commonwealth for a contest that has been largely overshadowed by the battle for the late Ted Kennedy's seat in Washington.

"This means that the Senate race remains the key race in the state and the differences between Warren and Brown are what are significant, not the differences between Obama and Romney," said Lawless.

 

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