January 16, 2010

THE GRASSROOTS VS. THE IVORY TOWER:

Democrats scramble in Massachusetts to retain Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat (Karl Vick and Chris Cillizza, January 16, 2010, Washington Post)

The fundamental dynamic of the race fell in place months ago, when Brown set off in a pickup truck for the only campaign the Republican could afford: retail, door-to-door. The campaign was so strapped for cash that aides described the $40,000 spent in the primary as a major hit. Brown could not afford to mail out absentee ballots, often so crucial in a close race. "So our program consists of e-mail and Facebook and Twitter," said Eric Fehrnstrom, a campaign official.

By working kitchens, bars and sidewalks, however, Brown was positioned to capitalize on the rising tide of discontent at the grass-roots level over taxes, unemployment and Washington. The frustration is especially evident among independents, who account for fully half of Massachusetts voters by registration. And after repeatedly winning election to the state Senate from a district Obama won with 60 percent, Brown had experience framing a message with broad appeal. "This is a big tent, folks," he said Friday. "One thing I know you all have in common is you believe in fairness and good government."

In mid-December, the National Republican Senatorial Committee conducted a poll that showed Brown trailing by only 13 points, but it kept the results to itself. Coakley continued operating on the assumption that for all intents and purposes she had won the seat with the Dec. 8 primary, a common assumption in the state known as the bluest of the blue.

"I think we overestimated the state's Democraticness and underestimated the national mood," one senior Democratic strategist said Friday. "We thought that the state's deep blue voting pattern would help us withstand national trends."

Coakley was rarely in position to detect the growing anger Brown would channel. Her strategy called for cultivating the local Democratic leaders who could be relied on to turn out enough of the faithful to win a special election, traditionally a low-turnout affair.

"I didn't think relying on the governor and the mayor and this whole trickle-down voting was going to work," said Sandy Fleishman, 69, a campaign volunteer at the Clinton rally.


As if the ironies weren't bountiful enough here, one problem for Democrats is supposedly that so many people go away because of the long weekend. How about the prospect of the Obama presidency being dealt a death blow by MLK Day?

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 16, 2010 9:57 AM
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