Senate race: Brown faces uphill battle

Nancy Reardon

Republican Scott Brown has to capture the support of a large majority of the state’s independent voters to be the next U.S. senator from Massachusetts, political analysts predict. And he has only five weeks to do it.

Brown, a third-term state senator from Wrentham, was declared the Republican victor soon after polls closed Tuesday night, with 89 percent of the vote,beating Duxbury lawyer and businessman Jack E. Robinson.

In heavily Democratic Massachusetts, Brown faces a formidable opponent, Attorney General Martha Coakley.

“There’s no question that in this race, Scott Brown has his work cut out for him,” said Paul Watanabe of Weymouth, a political analyst at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

But in a Tuesday night victory speech that focused on pocketbook issues, Brown said Massachusetts voters are ready for a change in leadership.

Calling a vote for a Democrat a vote for “business as usual,” Brown emphasized his independent mind-set.

Referring to Democrats, he said it’s time to vote out the “same old political machine that acts like it owns our state.”

Between now and the Jan. 19 special general election, Brown will be competing for voters’ attention with Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s and the long weekend of Martin Luther King Day.

And in a state where only 13 percent of the registered voters are Republican, he must gather more support in less time than the candidates had to campaign for Tuesday’s primary.

Traditionally, Republicans in Massachusetts win statewide elections by persuading independents and unenrolled voters to vote Republican. Thirty-seven percent of the state’s voters register as Democrats, and 50 percent are unenrolled. If Democrats vote Democratic, and Republicans vote Republican, Brown would have to capture about three-quarters of independent voters to win.

But with the off-timing of January’s election – especially with the region’s unpredictable winter weather – very low voter turnout could throw off that model.

In that case, if Brown wants to win, “you have to hope all your 13 percent comes out and a very small percentage of Democrats,” said David Paleologos, director of Suffolk University’s political research center.

Analysts say Brown will need a sustained message, a highly organized field organization to get people to the polls and, most importantly, money.

Brown told a Patriot Ledger editorial board last week that he’s had conversations with the Republican National Party in Washington.

“They’re very interested in the race,” he said.

But so far, their help has been in the form of tech support, phone banks and other equipment, he said.

Brown said he expected party leadership to get involved after the primary.

The Patriot Ledger