Well, what do you know — maybe there’s some hope for Massachusetts after all. Democratic pollster PPP applied a likely-voter test for the first time in the Bay State, and discovers that incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown has a small but significant lead over his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren. The bad news? Brown didn’t build that lead all by himself:
Scott Brown has returned to the lead in the crucial Massachusetts Senate race. The two were tied at 46% in PPP’s late June poll, but in the firm’s first test of likely voters in this fall’s election, Brown tops Elizabeth Warren, 49-44.
Independents make up almost half (48%) of voters, one of their largest shares of any state’s electorate. Unlike in many states where the role of independents is overblown, here they are truly decisive. And right now Brown is winning with them by 26 points (58-32), similar to June (57-33). To top that off, Brown has grown a bit both with his own party and Warren’s. He has essentially locked up his base (91-7, up from 86-9 just under two months ago), and is now poaching 20% of Warren’s partisans, up from 18% and leaving her with only 73% of the party which accounts for two-and-a-half times as many voters as Brown’s does.
Even in Massachusetts, it seems that there may be a limit to progressive antipathy toward entrepreneurs:
Voters are also still more concerned that Warren is too liberal (41%) than that Brown is too conservative (30%), including a 50-19 disparity with independents. They also see Brown as more an independent voice for the state (49%) than a partisan voice for national Republicans (38%), including 56-28 with independents.
At first blush, the sample looks like it has a ridiculous D/R/I split of 38/15/48. Then, when you look at the 2008 exit polls for Massachusetts (there aren’t any for 2010), the sample looks positively optimistic for Republicans, as the 2008 turnout split 43/17/40. It’s close enough to the 2008 model to be realistic for 2012, especially since the declared 2008 vote from this sample is 58/33/8 for Obama, which went 62/36 in the actual election. If the turnout this time becomes any more Republican or Republican-leaning, then Warren may be in bigger trouble than even PPP might suggest.
A couple of notes of caution apply. Brown is still below the 50% mark that incumbents need to feel secure at this stage. A majority of respondents want the Senate to remain in Democratic control at 53%, compared with only 36% that want to see control shift to the GOP. That desire may convince late deciders to pull for Warren, although independents are much more evenly split on this question, 42/4o in favor of continued Democratic control.
Still, if 50% of Massachusetts independents consider Warren and her “you didn’t build that” philosophy too liberal for their tastes (with only 38% calling her “just right”), imagine the impression she’ll leave as a featured speaker at the Democratic convention in two weeks. When class warfare isn’t selling in Massachusetts, shouldn’t Team Obama be looking for a Plan B that doesn’t involve the self-professed intellectual inspiration for the Occupy Movement speaking to the nation on his behalf?