Tuesday January 12, 2010

Massachusetts Dark Horse Candidate Could Kill Health Bill

By Kathleen Gilbert

BOSTON, January 12, 2010 ( – Poll numbers are showing an anti-health care bill dark horse candidate pulling alongside Democrat senatorial candidate Martha Coakley for Massachusetts’ special U.S. senate election, which is set to be held on January 19. The numbers have raised the spectre of an upset victory, not only for conservative Massachusetts voters, but for U.S. Senate Republicans seeking one last vote to kill the Democrats’ massive abortion-expanding health care overhaul.

With national polls continuing to show President Obama’s health bill out of favor with the American majority, Republican state senator Scott Brown has taken advantage of a weak season for the Democratic party to make a bid for the U.S. Senate seat held by interim Senator Paul Kirk, who took over after the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy in August. Anxious to ensure passage of the Democrats’ health care reform, Kennedy requested shortly before his death that state law be changed to allow an appointee to fill the Senate vacancy; the legislature acceded, and Governor Deval Patrick temporarily appointed former Kennedy aide Paul Kirk to the spot in September.

That spot is now up for grabs in the special election, which was considered a shoo-in for the Democratic candidate. But the results of a Rasmussen poll released January 5 startled Massachusetts Democrats: it showed Brown trailing Coakley by 9 points, a margin perceived as uncomfortably close. Then on Saturday, a Public Policy Poll (PPP) showed Brown edging out Coakley by one percentage point.

Brown, who has promised to be the “41st vote” to uphold a Republican filibuster against the bill, has launched a campaign to rouse the blue state’s GOP constituency in hopes that voter turnout could become the gamechanger. The PPP survey found that 66% of GOP voters are “very excited” about voting, compared with only 48% of Democrats. The pollster also reports Brown has a far wider margin of favorability compared to Coakley, and is sweeping the independent vote 70%-16%.

Among all who said they plan to vote in Massachusetts, 47% oppose the health care bill, while 41% support it.

“The MA Senate race is shaping up as a potential disaster for Democrats,” commented PPP pollster Dean Debnam. “Martha Coakley’s complacent campaign has put Scott Brown in a surprisingly strong position and she will need to step it up in the final week to win a victory once thought inevitable.”

Yet even should Brown win the special election, some government officials say that his actual swearing-in could wait several weeks – leaving the possibility that Sen. Kirk would remain in the seat long enough to boost the health bill through.

When asked if he would vote for the bill even after a win by Brown, Kirk responded “absolutely,” reports the Boston Herald.

Brown’s political stance on abortion is decidedly left-of-center – he calls abortion a decision that “should ultimately be made by the woman in consultation with her doctor” on his website. However, he has condemned the Senate health bill’s abortion funding, and his overall stiff opposition to the federal health bill hurtling towards passage has earned him the support of Massachusetts pro-lifers and those across the country hoping to stop the massive abortion-funding bill in its tracks.

Massachusetts Citizens for Life Executive Director Marie Sturgis told Tuesday morning that, if Brown won, it would be “a shot across the bow to the U.S. Senate that the American people do not support abortion in health care.”

“This win would certainly tell the Congress what they need to know as far as the American people and the people of Massachusetts,” said Sturgis.