National Democrats punched hard at Scott Brown this week. They missed.
Democrats earlier in the week downplayed Brown’s rise in recent polls and in the national news, saying that because national Democrats were now involved, spending money on attack ads and helping with messaging and turnout, the party machine would easily overwhelm the Republican.
But one Democratic operative said on Friday that the Suffolk poll “undermines the idea that the Massachusetts machine would kick in for Coakley.” The news Thursday that Brown had raised more than $1 million every day this week testifies to the intense enthusiasm for his candidacy.
David Kravitz, a lawyer and liberal blogger at bluemassgroup.com, said he still believes all the attention on the race “will energize the Dems, help them raise money, and demonstrate that [get out the vote] is absolutely critical.” He also cited a poll by Research 2000 taken Tuesday and Wednesday, also of 500 likely voters, that showed Coakley up 49 percent to 41 percent.
But the clearest message from the Suffolk poll is that people in Massachusetts are agitated about government spending at the state and federal level, and do not like President Obama’s health-care reforms for that reason.
Although Obama has a 55 percent favorability rating in the poll, with 35 percent unfavorability, his health-care reform being hashed out in Washington is opposed by 51 percent of those polled, compared to 35 percent who support it.
When asked if the federal government can afford the health-care plan under debate, 61 percent said no and 32 percent said yes.
The economy and jobs was the most important issue to 44 percent of respondents, and health care was top for 38 percent. No other issue came close. And 90 percent of people said that the recession is not over in Massachusetts.
Perhaps the most shocking number from the poll was that only 20 percent said the support of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s widow, Vicki, and his nephew, Joe, made them more likely to vote for Coakley, the state’s attorney general. And 27 percent said that support made them less likely to support Coakley.
(Vicki Kennedy cut a new ad for Coakley that was released Friday morning, in which she repeats a line first uttered by Brown in Monday’s debate: “It’s not the Kennedy seat. It’s the people’s seat.”)
Brown’s personal numbers also look much better than Coakley’s. He has 57 percent favorability versus 19 percent unfavorability, while Coakley’s numbers are 49 versus 41, which is a high unfavorable number.
Coakley has not helped herself with her latest gaffe, a comment that Catholics opposed to abortion “can have religious freedom but you probably shouldn’t work in the emergency room.”
Democrats now are focused on five key factors:
1. They hope the latest poll did not capture the full impact of the almost $2 million of attack ads run by national Democrats and the Service Employees International Union starting on Monday. “We need a few days for those points to cycle through,” said Eric Schultz, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Schultz also pointed out that the Suffolk poll under-surveyed Democrats, who made up only 39 percent of the poll but who usually make up about 42 or 43 percent of voters.
2. They hope that Bill Clinton’s visit to the state Friday to stump with Coakley gives the Democrat a boost.
“We’ll see if he can a) awaken the progressives (starting to happen already) and b) re-connect with the independents who are concerned about costs of health care,” said independent political and media strategist John Della Volpe.
3. They hope that Brown’s opposition to Obama’s $90 billion bank fee proposal gains traction among voters. Coakley put out a statement Friday morning attacking Brown for his opposition to the president’s idea, calling it “a defining difference between us that every voter should consider before Tuesday.”
“I choose to stand with the middle-class taxpayers who deserve to get their money back from the big banks that caused the economic crisis and are now lavishing bonuses on failed executives. Scott Brown is standing with Wall Street CEOs,” she said.
4. They hope that Obama decides to make a trip to the state to stump for Coakley. The White House did not respond to queries on the subject Friday morning.
“There are a lot more Democrats in the state that are just not as interested. We’ve got an intensity problem,” said Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist, on Fox News Thursday. “There’s a lot of hype, of heat and intensity on the Republican side. So if I’m Democrats, and I’ve got the president’s ear, I’m urging him to go in, because you turn up the heat on the Democratic side, get the turnout. That’s how you win this thing.”
5. They hope their turnout machine is enough on Tuesday to overcome the wave of support for Brown. “This whole thing is going to be about turnout,” Trippi said.