Will Warren keep up her momentum?

The race for Scott Brown’s U.S. Senate in Massachusetts is on, big time. Bay State voters are overwhelmingly Democratic but every once in a while they hold their collective noses and refuse to do what is expected of them. In that, they are not unlike their neighbors in nearby New York (also a Democratic state) who have a penchant for electing a Republican when the stench of politics gets too pungent.

The seat once held by the lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy, was won by Scott Brown, an unknown, sometimes moderate Republican, when the Democratic candidate, Attorney General Martha Coakley, didn’t show the required charisma to grab the seat. Coakley is a very good attorney general but didn’t have the pizzazz to beat Brown.

Now Brown is running for his life and is going to be tough to beat.

As I write this, he is one of – if not the – most popular politicians in the commonwealth. To win the seat back, the Democrats are going to have to fight like hell.

The Democrats will probably nominate Harvard Professor and Barack Obama favorite Elizabeth Warren, who is responsible for putting together a consumer protection agency for the president. She will be opposed in what promises to be a bruising September primary by a host of other Democrats who want the job. Warren is a woman, and as the New York Times has pointed out, voters in Massachusetts have had a bad history when it comes to electing women to high political office (so much for our reputation as a liberal, progressive state).

There will be seats other than the U.S. Senate on the 2012 ballot in Massachusetts. As everyone knows, the top political prize in the country will lead the ballot.

With the presidency up for grabs, Obama will certainly win big in the state where he was once endorsed by Ted Kennedy. Elections are won or lost by something called turnout and the presidential election is the most well-attended.

Unlike Republicans, who often vote in larger numbers, the Democrats are hard to get to the polls, but that’s not the case during a presidential election. Brown has to worry about all those Democrats who might – will most likely – vote for a Democrat as they look down the ballot.

For his part, Brown is running around Massachusetts staying to a script which revolves around a single word: “jobs.” Thanks in large part to a brilliant governor, as well as being in the right place at the right time, the commonwealth is doing relatively well when it comes to jobs and unemployment.

Brown’s people have undoubtedly been polling and finding out that when they ask people to name the No. 1 problem in America, their answer is “jobs.”

Obama has snookered the Republicans in the Senate into voting against his jobs bill. He will be running his national campaign on that issue, and Brown will have to break with his party on their resistance to the Obama plan. Obviously, he will be loathe to do that. There is no chance that Obama will lose Massachusetts, and his presence on the ballot will be a huge help for the Democratic candidate, who will probably be Elizabeth Warren.

For her part, Warren has to get through the difficult primary against a host of largely unknown candidates who run the political spectrum. Barring a meltdown, she will get the nomination. Once that’s accomplished, she will have to work her guts out. In Massachusetts, we like politicians who connect. Teddy Kennedy knew how to do that, but the jury is still out as to whether Warren can meet with the people and inspire the loyalty of a Kennedy. She has a real shot, but in this state charisma counts for a lot.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 10/15/11

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