Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

What to Look For in the Massachusetts Special Election

* If Inoljt does not mind, please use this diary as a Special Election open thread. Polls close at 8 PM EST. – Editor

By: Inoljt,

Results are soon pending in the special election to replace Senator Ted Kennedy. Once a guaranteed Democratic victory, the race has become surprisingly competitive due to a bad national environment and a lackluster campaign run by Democrat Martha Coakley. In fact, several polls have put Republican Scott Brown in the lead, striking panic amongst the Democratic establishment.

Interpreting incomplete results can be difficult if one is not familiar with how different areas in a state vote. Senator John McCain, for instance, led the vote in Virginia during much of election night; this was because deep-red rural Virginia reported first. After Democratic strongholds in Northern Virginia began posting, Barack Obama quickly pulled away (he ultimately won by 6.30%). Because Massachusetts is rarely competitive outside of gubernatorial elections, geographic unfamiliarity probably extends to even most politically active folk.

I have created a map indicating what a tied election would probably look like:


More below.

This map takes data from all statewide elections since 2004, derives the electoral lean of each county, and then averages these results to produce the picture. Here is the data by county:


Ironically, Republicans do better in the most populous counties – the opposite case for the nation in general. Republicans are strongest in the state’s suburbs; Scott Brown will need to win all of them to take the state (on the other hand, these wins need not be exceptionally large). On the other hand, Democrats do best in the city Boston and the more rural western reaches of the state.

Thus on election day when the results start coming in, take a look at the above table and compare it to the actual performances each candidate is posting. Whichever candidate is generally outperforming the table will likely win the election. Finally, look at who is winning Hampden and Bristol counties – the two places that vote closest to the state as a whole. If Martha Coakley is winning them, expect a Democratic victory. If Scott Brown is, then a Republican shocker is in the works. If the two are split, it will a nail-biter that goes deep into the night. There have been not many of those lately.

Whatever the case, today ought be an exciting day for politics buffs. There are not many races where the result has been so uncertain – where practically anything can happen and it would not be surprising for the polls to be completely off. It will be quite interesting to watch.


  1. Kysen

    ..and for the tips about how to read it as the results start to come in. I, for one, will be watching very closely…I bet many a Moose shall be doing the same.

  2. Kysen

    I am a man of mixed emotions on this. I am actually, tentatively, seeing a possible upside to a loss.

    Dunno, maybe that is the elusive optimist in me speaking.

    Either way…cheers. Salud. Prost. Slainte. L’Chaim. Smoke ’em if ya got ’em….gonna be a long night.  

  3. sricki

    Oh wait… I think he stopped.

    And now they’re showing clips from voters, some of which… I am cringing to think of these people at the polls.

  4. sricki

    “The Independents wanted to prove in 2008 they’re not really racists, and in 2009-2010 they’ve been proving they’re not socialists either.”


    CNN has it at 51-48 Brown.

  5. creamer

     Its over. It seems we must regroup and move on. I know their is talk of ramming health care through in the next 2 weeks, but is that really wise? This will be spun by the right and possibly MSM as a referendum on HCR. I think in part it was, and I suspect the right will win that message war. If you force it through, the GOP will claim that the Democratic majority is out of touch, and by recent poll numbers they would be right. That leaves us trying to defend and rationalize that to the voters who seem to be more worried about their jobs than what this health care bill will do for them or their neighbors in three years when it really starts to kick in. Are we politicaly adept enough to pull that off. Is this bill so well put together that its worth getting killed in the mid-terms.

    I have held the position that not passing a bill would lead to defeat in November, I’m begining to think I’m wrong. Maybe I’m just reacting to the disappointment of tonight, but I’m also wondering if this isn’t a reprieve. Think about it. We are trying to pass a bill that currently has a 33% approval rating, 46% negative. Thats a lot of minds to change in 9 months.

     Maybe we finish the process, put together a bill the house can pass and send it back to the senate and make the conservatives vote to deny an expansion of health care.

     Just asking. I reserve the right to change my mind.

  6. Less than a year ago there was no guarantee that the Dems would get 60 seats in the Senate, anyway.  If any of the promises of 2008 were meant to be achieved, they could not have been predicated on a super majority.

  7. When Brown is seated, the Democrats will possess the second highest majority it’s enjoyed in its history.

    If you can’t get your agenda put through with the loss of one seat, then you deserve to lose on that agenda, because it’s not cohesive enough to hold your coalition together.

    Time to write your Congresscritters and get them back on track. This is NOT an earthshattering development. It’s not a Bellwether change. It’s one seat.  And lost because of overconfidence and a crappy campaign.  

    My advice, Democrats?  Learn from this. And stop being so damn nice and apologetic.  Stop letting the worst elements of the GOP set the agenda, and shape the discussion.  And for the Love of Mike, HIT BACK.

    She lost to a Birther and a Tea Bag Apologist. If you can’t figure out how to hit back, and hit back hard the Wing Nut Brigade is going to send wave after wave of sock puppets to oppose you, and the dumbing down of the opposition is going to continue.  To the detriment of the nation and both our parties.

    In that, it IS much more in my interest that YOU weed out the idiots I and mine can’t keep off the ballot.  In this, we are in this together.  The fight for the soul of the GOP is as much in the hands of Democrats rewarding the Wing Nuts with seats that are poorly run for.  

  8. creamer

    98% of Bay staters have insurance, so this was not about healthcare. It may also be that they are unhappy with their healthcare.

  9. http://theplumline.whorunsgov….

    The poll has a limited sample, 800 voters, so take it with a grain of salt. However, I found some bits of it interesting.

    For instance, 7% of Mass residents are African-American. Only 3% of voters were black. More than 22% of residents are aged 18-34. Only 7% of voters yesterday were in that age group. That looks like more than enough to have changed the election. The other biggie is that 50% of Dems who voted for Brown did so to send a message to Washington. WTF do these people want?

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