The final polling results from Public Policy Polling in the U.S. Senate race show Scott Brown ahead of Martha Coakley by 51 percent to 46 percent, more comfortable than last week but still, it says, within its margin of error. Independents are running two to one in favor of Brown. Remember, it was Independents that tilted for Obama in 2008, and in this race they’re in flight the other way.
Today’s Boston Globe has a reasonable chart of the issues at stake, and, more broadly, it’s clear that the stakes are as high as the survival of President Obama’s domestic agenda.
If blue Massachusetts goes red, it may not cost the President a second term in and of itself, but it would accelerate the downward trend in public support of Democrats nationwide in the mid-term elections. It could leave some queasy Democratic members of Congress heading for the doors, leaving a gridlocked Congress unable to do much about health care, jobs, energy, and regulation of the excesses of financial institutions. Midterm strategy for Democrats coming out of the closeness of this race (regardless of the outcome, as the New York Times’ John Harwood puts it, should be pitting economic populism against Tea Party-type anti-government populism.
Turnout is always the key to outcome, no more so than in an off-year special election in the middle of winter. A month ago, with outcome foreordained, you could say about the race, who cares? Now, with attention dramatically aroused, the stakes painfully high and outcome uncertain, the question is: who cares more?