Just a single point separates the two likely candidates in the much anticipated Massachusetts Senate race according to a recent poll released on Wednesday May 23.
A 7 News Suffolk University poll of 600 likely voters taken between May 20 and 22, shows Republican incumbent Senator Scott Brown leading Democrat Elizabeth Warren 48 to 47 percent, well within the polls’ margin of error of +/- 4 percent. Another five percent said they were undecided, while one percent refused to answer.
Brown. a freshman Republican exploded onto the national political scene in January 2010 with an upset victory over Democrat Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in the special election to fill the senate seat left vacant following the August 2009 death of longtime Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy; is being challenged in his bid for a full term of his own by former Harvard Law Professor and Obama administration special adviser Elizabeth Warren. Despite her lack of prior political experience, Warren’s populist critiques of Wall Street lending practices has made her popular with progressive activists.
The poll shows the personal favorablity of both candidates has risen, but Brown’s has grown more with 58 percent saying they have a favorable opinion of him to just 28 percent with an unfavorable view. According to the numbers, 43 percent of respondents said they have a favorable view of Warren while 33 percent expressed an unfavorable view.
Each candidate has attempted to craft a particular image of themselves for the electorate. Brown has touted himself as an independent minded senator, willing to cross party lines to craft and support good legislation, while Warren has painted herself as a populist willing to challenge Wall Street and corporate special interests. The efforts of both seem to be paying off. When asked who would be a more ‘independent’ senator, respondents chose Brown (47-42 percent), while Warren has a narrow edge on which candidate they trust to tell the truth (40 percent to 37 percent) and who would better represent the interests of middle class families ( 49 percent-36 percent).
If given the opportunity to either vote for or against Warren or Brown in November an overall majority (48 percent) would cast a ballot FOR Warren, rather than FOR Brown (16 percent), AGAINST Brown (23 percent) or AGAINST Warren (13 percent). When broken down by supporters, Brown seemed to have the lead in enthusiasm with 92 percent saying they were supporting Brown rather than opposing Warren, while 77 percent said they were supporting Warren and 23 percent opposing Brown.
Overall 72 percent of those polled say they have heard about the story about Warren’s native American ancestry and what if any role it had in her hiring as a professor. Though 69 percent said the story is not important and a plurality believe she is telling the truth about her heritage (49-28 percent); 41 percent say she likely benefited from her ancestry as a minority hire. The Brown camp has been hitting Warren on the issue, claiming that it is an issue of honesty and integrity.
Likewise, the Warren campaign has repeatedly said that Brown is ‘Wall Street’s favorite Senator’ based on campaign donations he has received from the financial industry. But the message seems to be falling on deaf ears, with a majority of respondents saying a vote for Scott Brown is not an endorsement of Wall Street (55 percent- 33 percent).
Despite Warren’s strengths though there is one figure that should keep the Warren camp on their toes, 56 percent said there is a benefit to having the state be represented in the senate by one Democrat and one Republican.
Obama ahead of Romney by double digits in Massachusetts
Though its his home state where he served as Governor, the poll also found that Massachusetts will be very difficult terrain for Mitt Romney. If the election were held today 59 percent said they would vote for President Obama, while just 34 percent said they would back Governor Romney. Only five percent said they were undecided. No Republican Presidential candidate has won Massachusetts in a general election since 1984, and not since 1916 has any presidential candidate won the White House while losing their home state.
Any potential for Romney to carry the state and its eleven electoral votes is made all the harder by his low favorablity. Just 36 percent say they have a favorable view of their former Governor, compared with 62 percent who say the same about President Obama.
Both Romney and Obama backers seem fueled by support of thier candidate rather than opposition to their opponent. Eighty-one percent of Obama supporters say their vote is fueled more by genuine support than opposition to the other candidate. Overall 81 percent of those who say they will vote for President Obama said they were fueled by general support of the President, while 19 percent said they were to oppose Governor Romney. A majority of Romney supporters (56 percent- 44 percent) said thier choice was more about Mitt Romney than opposition to President Obama.
Governor Patrick popular, but Massachusetts voters cool towards potential Patrick Presidential campaign
Governor Deval Patrick’s personal favorbility is holding strong at 60 percent and with the Commonwealth’s economy doing better than many other states, respondents said 61-28 percent that the commonwealth is headed in the right direction, a reverse of what voters in other polls seem to be saying about the nation as a whole.
Patrick and President Obama have long been friends, with their outsider runs in the Democratic primary against seasoned party favorites and eventual landslide victories. Having said that he will not seek a third term for Governor in 2014, and with a larger portion of his time taken up with trips around the country on behalf of the President’s re-election campaign there are some whispers of a possible Patrick bid for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016.
Despite his popularity, only 23 percent said they would like to see Patrick make a run for the Presidency in 2016, while 58 percent said they were not. Four of the last five Massachusetts governors have used their time in office as a springboard to increase their national status, something Massachusetts voters seem to resent.
UPDATE: Ron Brownstein says there is a relatively large segment of Democrats who still support Obama but are willing to support Brown in November:
Warren faces what might be called an Obama gap: in her marquee Senate race against Scott Brown she is winning an unusually small share of the president’s supporters. In fact, the latest poll shows Warren winning fewer Obama supporters than any Democratic Senate candidate did in 2010 in a state where the president was popular. Warren is also facing considerably more defection than the Democratic Senate candidates in three other battleground states polled this week.
One senior Republican strategist with access to the party’s polling says that in fact Brown is winning a larger share of the voters backing the other party’s presidential nominee than any other Senate candidate from either side in a competitive race this year.
As I noted in a recent piece, the share of voters splitting their tickets between a presidential candidate of one party and a Senate candidate of the other has steadily declined since the 1980s. Even in off-year elections, it is now routine for 80 percent or more of the voters who approve of a president’s performance to support his party’s candidate in competitive Senate races and at least 80 percent of those who disapprove to vote for the other party’s candidate.
That pattern was evident in the NBC/Marist Poll surveys released earlier this week in the battleground states of Ohio, Florida and Virginia. In Virginia, according to the survey, Democratic nominee Tim Kaine was winning 86 percent of voters who also indicated they were supporting Obama. In Ohio, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown was attracting 84 percent of Obama supporters, the NBC/Marist Poll found. In Florida, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson held 81 percent of Obama supporters.
But in the Suffolk University/WHDH (Boston) survey released Wednesday, Warren was holding just 71 percent of voters who preferred Obama over Mitt Romney. In the survey, Brown drew 24 percent of the Obama voters, far more than the Republican candidates in Ohio (7 percent), Virginia (8 percent), and Florida (8 percent), according to the NBC/Marist surveys. (Brown, at 93 percent, was also consolidating a larger share of the Romney supporters than Republicans in those three races.)
You can check out more on the Pioneer Valley Dispatch’s Political blog.