Sunday, December 11, 2011

Elizabeth Warren ahead in Mass. Senate race

Elizabeth Warren
Late last week, the Boston Herald reported on a new poll in Massachusetts showing Democrat Elizabeth Warren now ahead of Republican incumbent Scott Brown for the first time in their contest to grab a U.S. Senate seat in the 2012 election.

In the University of UMass-Lowell/Boston Herald poll, Warren leads Brown by a 49-42 percent margin, which is outside the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 5.3 percentage points.
The poll of 505 registered Massachusetts voters was conducted for UMass-Lowell by Princeton Survey Research from Dec. 1 - Dec. 6, and shows Warren with her largest lead yet in the campaign. A UMass-Lowell/Boston Herald poll taken in late September showed Brown ahead by a 41-38 percent margin, so the new poll represents a 10-point swing in Warren’s favor in less than two months.
It's early days, but this is the first lead for Warren against Brown. The survey also indicates that the barrage of attack ads from both sides is having an impact with the negatives for both candidates inching up. 

Less than half of Massachusetts voters - 48 percent, now say they have a favourable view of Brown, down from 52 percent. Those who say they have an unfavourable view of the incumbent has increased from 29 to 35 percent. 
But Warren has also apparently suffered from a Karl Rove-led TV attack ad campaign, which focuses on her stated support for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Just 18 percent of voters had an unfavorable view of Warren in late September, and that number has now jumped nine points to 27 percent. Warren’s favorable numbers have increased only slightly, from 30 to 34 percent.
Warren right now appears to be winning the battle of campaign messages. Asked who would do a better job of looking out for middle class families, 43 percent of voters cite Warren and 33 percent identify Brown. Nearly half of Massachusetts voters also say Warren would do a better job of regulating Wall Street institutions.
Scott Brown
Yes, it's early days, but one of the keys to the 2012 election, both for the White House and for Senate and House races, will be the extent to which the unfairness of the growing gap between rich and poor resonates with independent voters. If the right is successful in blaming Obama for the sluggish economy, that's trouble for him. But if enough people understand, despite some populist sleight of hand, that the GOP has always embraced its role as mouthpiece for big money, the Democrats benefit. 

If the ballot question in 2012 is: Who will best stand for the middle class against Wall Street, Warren wins and so, maybe, does Obama. Because Elizabeth Warren has been such an effective voice as a critic of wealth and power in America, it will be interesting to see how this argument plays out not only in Massachusetts, but across the country. 

But as the impact of political ads from both side shows, it will be some time before we know how the American people are likely to see the election. Karl Rove would like to frame it as a campaign about stopping dirty hippies and other supposed slothful sorts from getting money for free. Democrats would like to frame it as about the grossly unfair distribution of power in the country and the impact it has on the ability of most hard working America to get a fair shake.

Massachusetts could well be a testing ground for competing messages.