In the past 48 hours, the blogosphere has awakened to the cause of Scott Brown in Massachusetts. There hasn't been any recent public polling, but my sense is that a poll of likely voters would show Scott Brown within single digits of Martha Coakley, with those most likely to vote opting strongly for Brown. Perhaps the lack of polling betrays the conventional wisdom that Coakley would win in a rout, but maybe one of the more forward-looking public pollsters like Rasmussen or PPP will prove me wrong and poll this thing.
The case for a Brown upset can be summed up as follows: A January 19th special election would likely skew the turnout universe more Republican than it ever would be in the Bay State. The race has received comparably little attention, so turnout is likely to be low, and a minor surge in Republican turnout could go a long way.
Then there's the enthusiasm gap: we're already seeing Republicans far more likely to vote in 2010, even beyond the waning of the Obama-only 2008 young voter base. Republican enthusiasm is white hot right now, possibly hotter than it will be in November 2010, because of health care.
And here's where the mammoth significance of playing in MA-SEN comes into the discussion: if Brown wins, Obamacare is dead. 60 becomes 59. Because Democrats will have lost the Liberal Lion's seat, whose photo stands in the Democratic Cloakroom with the words "Let's get this done." Any chance we have to take out the Obamacare abomination, however remote, is a fight worth fighting. The Senate is currently scheduled to come back into session on January 19th, the day of the Massachusetts special election. Harry Reid could move this up if it looked like Brown could win, but he'd have to get a conference done, pass it through the House, and then get it through the Senate. Not likely. And not before Republicans would scream bloody murder.
Then there is a bit of recent electoral history. It's true that Massachusetts has deserved the mantle of the most Democratic state in its recent history. But that Democratic loyalty is not quite as strong as it was. Massachusetts is now within two points of California in Presidential partisanship, handing Obama a 26-point win to California's 24 points. In California, a larger and more diverse state, we are talking about a possibly competitive Senate race with a recent history of electing Republican governors. Let's also remember that Massachusetts Democrats are not Obama Democrats. Despite the blessing of Kennedy and Kerry, Obama lost the state by 10 points on Super Tuesday. In October 2007, Republican Jim Ogonowski came within 6 points of beating Niki Tsongas in the MA-5 special, and that was in a bad political climate for Republicans. And a final point that bears remembering: Massachusetts has a Cook PVI of D+12. In a strange low-turnout election scheduled during the winter months, Joseph Cao won LA-2 in a D+25 district. Martha Coakley may not be stashing cash in the freezer, but weird things happen in special elections (as NY-23 also showed us). And an extra, final point: in a sleepy, low-turnout special election in CA-10, that no one believed Republican David Harmer could win and which attracted minimal support from national Republicans and the blogosphere as everyone was focused on Doug Hoffman, we came within 10 points. The Cook PVI rating of that district was D+11. That could have been a lot closer with extra resources and political capital spent.
All in all, taking a calculated risk in MA-SEN is worth it. Nobody doubts this is an uphill fight, but I don't want to be the guy who decided not to take a stand only to find out that we lost by 6 on election night when everyone assumed the Democrat would win running away and didn't fight.
In full disclosure, my company provides some online services to the Brown campaign, but I'm not privy to their decision making process nor did I consult them about this post. I do know that people are uncharacteristically fired up about this race and that enthusiasm has followed a hockey stick trajectory in the last 48 hours. It's not out of the question that Brown could raise another half a million dollars online between now and election day, with a moneybomb planned for January 11th. But it's up to us to get the job done.