There has been a notable absence of public polling in the January 19 special election in Massachusetts to fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. That will begin to change tomorrow, when Scott Rasmussen releases the results of a poll that he's conducting tonight.
But THE WEEKLY STANDARD has obtained the results of a private poll conducted last week by a reputable non-partisan firm. In that survey, Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley led Republican state senator Scott Brown in the ballot test by 50% to 39%--not bad for Brown in a state Obama carried by 23 points. More interesting, perhaps, is that while Coakley's favorable/unfavorable rating was 61% to 32%, Brown's was 56% to 26%--in other words, they were virtually identical at +29/30. That suggests a potentially very competitive race: If Brown can make his case against another Democratic vote in the U.S. Senate, or against rewarding a member of unpopular governor Deval Patrick's administration, some voters who currently prefer Coakley might be open to voting for Brown, since they view him favorably as well. THE WEEKLY STANDARD has also learned that an earlier poll, done in mid-December by another firm for another client, had similar results in the ballot test--but that the poll also found that the race tightened significantly, down to a low single digits margin for Coakley, among those judged most likely to vote. Furthermore, a careful analysis by Sean Trende shows, that if one assumes a swing against the Democrats like that in New Jersey and Virginia two months ago, the race could become very close.
Of course, Massachusetts is a tough state for a Republican to win. But anecdotally, the enthusiasm and momentum seems on Brown's side, as Jim Geraghty describes in his post titled "Anecdotes for Cheer, Data for Gloom." The anecdotes include the fact that Coakley is hiding from the media and avoiding one-and-one debates--to the disgust of the Boston Globe!, and that there are lots of reports of a surge in Republican enthusiasm. And if Curt Schilling is for Brown, who can rule him out?