Massachusetts elects Democrats to the US Senate.  Actually, to be entirely accurate, they elect two kinds of Democrats to the US Senate — Kennedys and Kennedy wannabes, which is why Ted Kennedy held his seat for over 45 years and why John Kerry keeps his despite his lackluster career.  When a Kennedy-anointed candidate runs for this office, Bay State voters fall into line — or at least they did in the past.  The latest Rasmussen poll of likely voters in Massachusetts doesn’t quite show a break with history yet, but it does show that it’s possible:

State Attorney General Martha Coakley holds a nine-point lead over her Republican rival, state Senator Scott Brown, in Massachusetts’ special U.S. Senate election to fill the seat of the late Edward M. Kennedy.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Coakley ahead of Brown 50% to 41%. One percent (1%) prefer some other candidate, and seven percent (7%) are undecided.

The special Senate election will be held on January 19 and special elections typically feature low turnout. That’s one reason the race appears to be a bit closer than might typically be expected for a Senate race in Massachusetts. Kennedy carried 69% of the vote when he was reelected in 2006.

Last month, I speculated that a campaign by Brown against ObamaCare could shake loose some support and energy and allow him to score an upset.  E.J. Dionne disagreed, saying that ObamaCare and its Massachusetts antecedent were more popular than I presumed.  In this case, Dionne was right; Rasmussen finds that ObamaCare has a majority supporting it, 53%/45%, although the numbers reverse for those strongly favoring or opposing it, 27%/36% — which could still generate some heat for Brown.

The internals for Rasmussen show that Coakley does well among women and among most of the age demographics; Brown wins 60% of the thirtysomethings, but doesn’t score 40% among any of the others.  There is significant partisan crossover going both directions; 24% of Republicans support Coakley, while 17% of Democrats support Brown.  Since there are far more Democrats than Republicans in Massachusetts, that seems like no worse than a wash for Brown.

Meanwhile, Democrats have a problem with independents in Massachusetts as well as nationally.  Independents sharply favor Brown, 65%/21%, and they oppose ObamaCare by a wide margin, 68%/30%.  Fifty-five percent of all MA independents strongly oppose the plan.  They also view Coakley unfavorable, 36%/59%, while giving Brown excellent favorability at 81%/9%.   For Obama, that number goes to 31%/69% despite having an overall approval rating in the state of 57%/42%.

If Brown is to win this race, he needs to do a better job of reaching Republicans and dissident Democrats in the last two weeks of the election.  With a big enough push, he could eat into that nine-point lead, especially if the GOP deliver an efficient GOTV effort in a special election.  Even a close call would send a big signal to Democrats about the tough road ahead in 2010.

Update: Jules Crittenden has more.