Brown tells Obama to stay out of Massachusetts; Update: Rothenberg moves race to "toss-up"

Barack Obama has been conspicuously absent from the Massachusetts special election that will replace Ted Kennedy in the Senate.  After Obama flopped at a Deval Patrick fundraiser in 2009, Martha Coakley may not be terribly anxious to have a similar embarrassment in an already-creaky campaign.  Scott Brown says he doesn’t want Obama campaigning in Massachusetts, either:

Surging GOP Senate candidate Scott Brown yesterday warned President Obama to “stay away” from the Bay State during his roiling race against Democratic rival Martha Coakley and not to interfere with their intensifying battle in the campaign’s final days.

“He should stay away and let Martha and I discuss the issues one on one,” Brown said. “The machine is coming out of the woodwork to get her elected. They’re bringing in outsiders, and we don’t need them.”

Coakley’s campaign showed signs of panic as they scrambled to get a last-minute appearance by Obama to bolster their effort before Tuesday’s election. …

Coakley said yesterday she hasn’t heard from the White House. “I welcome his support, but we’ve got a lot of support here in Massachusetts (and) I think he’s got a lot on his plate in Washington,” she said.

Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday that the president had no plans to visit Massachusetts, even though he realizes “there’s a lot at stake in the election.”

There seems to be a bit of the briar-patch strategy in Brown’s statement.  Normally, one would want to limit the amount of support shown for one’s opposition as a matter of course — but despite Massachusetts’ deep-blue status, voters are not as enchanted with Obama as they were in 2008.  Obama couldn’t fill a Democratic fundraiser three months ago for Patrick, and he was more popular then than now.

If Obama came and stumped for Coakley, it would bolster his assertions that Coakley is nothing more than a pawn of the Democratic “machine,” Brown’s message this week.  Obama himself seems to understand this, and he has plenty of excuses for not showing up in Massachusetts.  If Obama doesn’t show, then the impression will be left that Obama doesn’t want to risk his standing with an explicit campaign effort only to lose — like he did in New Jersey.

Either way, the taunt works for Brown.  Via Jim Geraghty, here’s a more positive message that Brown is sending to voters this week. I think this is an unusually positive ad for the last week of a campaign:

Update: Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg moves the race to Toss-Up from Narrow Advantage to Incumbent:

Democratic desperation and other compelling evidence strongly suggest that Democrats may well lose the late Senator Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat in Tuesday’s special election. Because of this, we are moving our rating of the race from Narrow Advantage for the Incumbent Party to Toss-Up.

Whatever the shortcomings of the Coakley campaign (and they certainly exist), this race has become about change, President Obama and Democratic control of all of the levers of power in Washington, D.C. Brown has “won” the “free media” over the past few days, and if he continues to do so, he will win the election.

Note that Rothenberg isn’t saying that Democratic desperation will cause them to lose the race, but that their desperation gives a pretty good indication that they think they could lose the race.  He also discounts any boost for Coakley from late attack ads, saying that the obvious desperation will make those attacks much less credible.  And all of this is more good reason for Obama to steer clear of Massachusetts.

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