Democrats in Massachusetts on Saturday unleashed a furious battery of attacks on Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown, saying he favors turning away rape victims from hospitals, failed to provide health insurance for his campaign workers and is a tool of big banks and the Tea Party movement.
“There is something to be said — in a state where your base is bigger than the other guy’s base — in giving the base some red meat, in being aggressive, defining who this guy is, that energizes the base,” a senior operative involved in the Democratic effort said in an interview Saturday night. “When you want your base to be energized and you need them to turn out, aggressively defining the guy is an important thing.”
But Democrats struggled to form a unified and coherent message out of the numerous points of attack, and risked appearing desperate. A new poll out Saturday showed Brown up by three points over Democratic candidate Martha Coakley, as President Obama prepared to come north to the Bay State to campaign for Coakley in Boston on Sunday afternoon.
Polls have consistently shown that the state’s voters are highly agitated about government spending, at the state and local levels, as well as the economy.
Brown, who has labeled himself the senator who will kill Obama’s health-care bill, will hold a rally of his own in Worcester, an hour west of Boston, at 3 p.m., the same time as Obama’s rally.
“We’re pushing back hard on the gutter politics,” a senior Brown aide said by e-mail late Saturday. “We’re not worried about Obama’s visit. It reinforces the impression that [Coakley] is the candidate of the machine. The fact she needs Obama to come save her bacon in Massachusetts indicates just how desperate her position has become.”
Obama’s trip to Boston on Sunday demonstrates the urgency that this race has taken on for the White House. A Brown victory would be a shocking rebuke to state and national Democrats, and it would also complicate and possibly kill the health-care bill being hashed out by congressional Democrats.
Democrats were partially successful in knocking Brown off message Saturday with an attack ad that the Republican said was so dishonest it broke the law. The state Democratic party sent a mailer (click here to see it) that said, “1,736 women were raped in Massachusetts in 2008. Scott Brown wants hospitals to turn them all away.”
The mailer was based on an amendment sponsored by Brown in 2005 that would have allowed physicians or nurses to excuse themselves from administering emergency contraception to rape victims if their conscience or religious belief forbid them from doing so. Many Catholics believe emergency contraception is a form of abortion. The amendment would not have forbidden other employees of a hospital from administering the drug.
The amendment, which did not pass, was attached to a bill that Brown voted for, which required hospitals to give the emergency contraceptives to rape victims.
A Brown campaign lawyer decried the ad as defamation. “People can shade things and spin things, but it has to have some kernel of truth,” said Daniel Winslow, who indicated the campaign would likely file a lawsuit on Tuesday, the next business day.
Brown said the ad marked “the most malicious campaign that’s ever been run in Massachusetts.”
The Coakley campaign continued to hammer away at Brown for opposing Obama’s $90 billion bank fee designed to recoup money lost in the $700 bailout of large financial institutions. Obama intends to frame Brown as on the side of Wall Street rather than the working class, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs made clear on Friday.
Brown also took fire for not providing health insurance to his campaign workers, and for voting in 2001 against financial aid for Red Cross workers who had volunteered to help with the relief effort following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Coakley on Saturday had begun to harp on Brown’s failure to give health insurance to campaign workers.
“If he won’t stand up for the people he employs, how could we ever trust him to stand up for us?” she said.
The Brown campaign said that those who were employed by the campaign and did not already have insurance were paid extra so they could purchase it through an exchange set up by the state under its health-care overhaul.
Despite the fact that the national Democratic party and unions have spent more than $2 million for Coakley in the last week, liberal blogs vented about Tea Party activists traveling to Massachusetts to help Brown, and about conservatives trying to tie up Coakley phone banks.
Brown himself raised more than $1 million each day from Monday to Thursday.
“It seems this sure thing is falling apart,” wrote Ernie Bloch III, in a post on bluemassgroup.com, a liberal Massachusetts politics blog, pleading with Obama to give his “best” speech on Sunday to rally the Democratic faithful.