UPDATE — We are 7 hours into voting in Massachusetts and even the snowy weather does not seem to be dampening the enthusiasm of Scott Brown voters. Jane Woodworth, co-host of the “Fun with Dick and Jane” show on WESO 970 am in Massachusetts, went to the polls early this morning in Central, MA to find a line of voters already there. “I have never seen anything like it. The polls had a steady stream of voters from the beginning. People kept hugging me at the poll, little old men in their 70’s, thrilled to be a part of this campaign. I don’t care what anyone else says, this is a message to Washington, and it is a rejection of everything they are doing.”
At the local junior high school in Acton, MA, Ltc (Ret) Mike Farquhar, a local blogger who has been covering this race for months, has spent most of today standing outside his local polling place. “I am in a very liberal area and, despite that, the thumbs up and honks of support we have seen all day have been astonishing. I have spoken to people who are voting Republican for the first time in their lives.”
Ralph, a lifelong Democrat and card carrying union member, spoke to me by phone outside of a Boston polling place. Ralph’s experience in the 2008 election caused a change in his party affiliation from Democrat to Independent. “I volunteered for Hilary Clinton and saw the sham that the Democrats perpetrated during the primary. We Hilary supporters knew what Obama was all about back then. The rest of the Country is finally coming to see what we saw last year. I have worked for Scott Brown, and am standing here still today, because of healthcare, jobs and taxes.” In assessing the response that he has had today, “A lot of disillusioned Democrats and a constant honks and thumbs up in the heart of Boston.” Indeed, in the 10 minutes we spent on the phone, he could not get a complete sentence out without being drowned out by horns of support.
Among all that I talked to, there is a sense of cautious optimism…the caution comes from a concern about vote fraud by the left rather than a failure of Brown to carry his message. A local activist closed our conversation with an important reminder, “If you haven’t voted yet…get out there and do it. Don’t listen to the polls or predictions and don’t take the craftiness of the Democrat machine in MA for granted. Get out and make sure Scott Brown gets your vote. Make sure Washington hears your message.”
When my kids were little and they had one of those overwhelming, nothing is going right days, I would break out Judith Viorst’s classic, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It is a simple reminder that it is so easy to focus on the bad that sometimes we forget to focus on the good.
After last week, someone should send a copy to Massachusetts Democratic Senate hopeful Martha Coakley.
The last week of her campaign was so horrible, in fact, it would be easy to focus on her missteps in assessing the race and the Brown surge. Coakley sneered at Brown’s good old-fashioned grassroots hand shaking outside Fenway Park with the “common” voters in MA, choosing instead to glad-hand in the Beltway at a posh wine bar with lobbyists and healthcare clients.
Her assessment of the situation in Afghanistan is as frightening as it is disturbing, “If the goal was and the mission in Afghanistan was to go in because we believed that the Taliban was giving harbor to terrorists. We supported that. I supported that. They’re gone. They’re not there anymore.”
Later in the week, one of her staffers pushed a reporter and days later she offended Catholics with her assessment of where they should and shouldn’t work in hospitals. She used the World Trade Center in a campaign ad, a pre-9/11 picture, to symbolize corporate greed (I am sure that the terrorists would agree with that assessment but the average American might not.) And, in perhaps the most glaring example of her complete detachment from the people of Massachusetts and her contempt for the common man, she called Red Sox great Curt Shilling the Y-word.
But Scott Brown’s surging campaign, while certainly helped by Coakley’s embarrassing gaffes and political mistakes, is rooted in his success and not in Coakley’s failures. It is the success of his message, the effectiveness of his campaign and the strategic use of highly energized grassroots-supporters.
While Coakley is leaning on political gurus and beltway strategists, the Brown campaign is relying on a true grassroots effort that has not been seen right of center in decades, if ever. The result is a motivated electorate, a flush campaign war chest and volunteers willing to spend a three day weekend working for the campaign instead of watching football playoffs and catching up on day to day life.
The contrast between Brown’s events this weekend and Coakley’s could not be any more glaring. When Brown arrived in Worchester on January 17, he was greeted by an enthusiastic and energized crowd and had to open up additional rooms at another location to accommodate an overflow crowd. Upon hearing that not everyone was able to be inside the room where he was speaking, Brown finished in the main room and then journeyed to another hotel holding the overflow crowd to personally speak to them and thank them for their support. (video here)
Coakley’s Boston event, with heavyweight headliners President Obama and Senator Kerry, could not even fill a room with supporters. In fact, there were almost as many Brown supporters lining the streets outside the venue as there were Coakley supporters in the building. And Coakley left the event as quickly as she could; there was no mingling with the commoners.
Joe, a boots on the ground volunteer who spent the weekend making calls, carrying signs and attending events notes, told me “Scott Brown gets it. The Senate seat is not a spoil to be given to an anointed person; it is lent to them by the people of this state. No one is owed this seat, it should be earned and Scott Brown has spent weeks going from one end of the state to another, meeting people like me. Martha seems to want to spend time courting the beltway rather than the people of her own state.”
Brown’s affable and easy-going manner, combined with a shrewd and capable campaign staff, has taken what began to bubble in the NY-23 race and brought it to the next level. The campaign has engaged with grassroots activists but also has provided a solid campaign infrastructure behind the unbridled enthusiasm. As one Beltway consultant put it so simply, “There are grownups in charge. They know what they know, but even more importantly they know what they don’t know. They are both eager and appreciative of the help that has poured in. They respect the enthusiasm the grassroots activists have brought to the MA race and it is clear that they see this effort, and the hard work of so many average folks, as an asset and a gift.”
As for the feeling on the ground with one day to go? Mike, a lifelong Massachusetts resident is feeling, “Excited, enthusiastic and ready to put in 24 more hours of help!”
In fewer hours than that, we’ll know the result.