Yesterday Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA-4), currently serving his 16th two-year term in the House, announced he will not seek re-election in 2012. Previously, he had said he would run again but the Massachusetts redistricting plan gave him a much different seat, one that includes a substantial amount of new territory. The new 4th is more Republican, but nowhere close to the level of making Rep. Frank vulnerable to defeat. The loss of the more liberal towns of Fall River and New Bedford, however, which were replaced with more culturally conservative regions, does change the ideological prism of the district.
Without Mr. Frank in the 2012 picture, several Democrat office holders already are beginning to make moves to enter the race. Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter announced his congressional candidacy yesterday on the heels of the Frank retirement statement. Two former US Senate candidates, Newton Mayor Setti Warren and wealthy businessman Alan Khazei, both of whom dropped their bids earlier this year in favor of Obama Administration consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren, are also potential candidates. Three women, Democrat state and local officials, likewise are being mentioned: state Sen. Cynthia Creem, and Brookline Selectwomen Jesse Mermell and Deborah Goldberg.
On the Republican side, 2010 nominee Sean Bielat, who held Frank to a 53-43 percent victory in the current district, had previously announced his candidacy as did Elizabeth Childs, a former state Mental Health Commissioner. The Democrats will likely hold the seat, but this campaign becomes more interesting in its new status as an open seat contest.
The inevitable just happened in Massachusetts. Public Policy Polling (Sept. 16-18; 791 registered Massachusetts voters) released a poll producing, for the first time, highly competitive numbers in Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) re-election campaign. The Bay State is among the nation’s most reliable of Democratic Party voting entities and it was always likely that polls showing Brown consistently holding double-digit leads over his Democratic opponents would eventually dissipate. The new PPP data gives challenger Elizabeth Warren (D), the former Obama administration consumer advocate, a 46-44 percent advantage over Brown, the first time the senator has trailed in 2011.
Furthermore, Brown went into the negative column in job approval, also for the first time. According to the data, he posts a 44:45 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio. By contrast, Warren scored 40:22 percent when asked if people have a positive or negative personal opinion of her.
Clearly Ms. Warren is the Democrats’ best potential candidate. Against the party’s other contenders, the incumbent continues to score well. When paired with businessman and 2010 Senatorial special election candidate Alan Khazei, Brown leads 48-33 percent. Against Newton Mayor Setti Warren, the senator’s advantage is 47:32 percent. And, with state Rep. Tom Conroy (D) now in the race, the Republican has a substantial 50:31 percent edge.
The numbers now put the Massachusetts senate race back into the competitive category, where it will likely stay. Considering the Democrats’ overwhelming voter history and registration advantage here, a “toss-up” rating is again appropriate.
The Mass Inc. polling organization surveyed the Bay State electorate for NPR radio station WBUR in Boston (Aug. 30-Sept. 1; 500 likely Massachusetts voters). For the first time, a poll is showing Sen. Scott Brown (R) ahead by less than a double-digit spread. Despite Obama Administration Consumer Advocate Elizabeth Warren only scoring a 17:13 percent positive to negative favorability ratio, she pulls to within 35-44 percent of Sen. Brown.
Against the other potential Democratic contenders, however, Brown still remains firmly in control. When paired with author and Episcopal priest Bob Massie, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 1994, the senator leads 45-29 percent. Against businessman and former US Senate candidate Alan Khazei, Brown’s advantage is a full 15 points, 45-30 percent. Finally, in a one-on-one contest with Newton Mayor Setti Warren, the first-term Senatorial incumbent pulls away by an even greater 46-28 percent margin. Brown’s favorability index is a strong 54:25 percent.
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