“I’ve lived in Massachusetts my whole life,” says Christina Knowles, director of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization of Women. “It’s a shock.”

What’s even more shocking is how little enthusiasm Coakley’s campaign seems to have generated among the women of Massachusetts. According to several recent polls, female voters, who tend to be more liberal, are barely more likely than male voters to favor Coakley over Brown; one poll shows Coakley behind by four points among women, another has the candidates’ tied for the female vote. One outlier poll, conducted for liberal blog The Daily Kos, reports Coakley enjoys 13 percent more female support than Brown. But strategists would expect the gender gap to be safely large in a typical election, with far more women than men supporting the Democratic candidate. When Ted Kennedy ran for reelection the final time, in 2006, 72 percent of women supported his bid…

It’s not as though Coakley didn’t have a strong progressive record to run on. She is the only state attorney general to have sued the federal government, alleging that the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional and discriminatory toward gay people. In a special election where getting the base to the polls is key, you’d think this would be a part of Coakley’s record she would boast about. Instead, she ran ads on prosecuting Internet sexual predators and supporting small business owners. She played it safe.