Today is a pivotal day in American politics as voters across Massachusetts head to the polls to elect a new Senator. They will be filling the seat occupied for 46 years by Ted Kennedy. Given the New England commonwealth’s reputation as one of the most liberal states (for example, they were the first to allow same-sex marriage), one would typically expect the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley, to coast to an easy victory. After all, a Republican has not held a Senate seat there since 1978. Instead, she is in a statistical tie or even projected to lose. The latest survey from InsiderAdvantage conducted on Sunday shows the Republican, Scott Brown, with a 9-point edge. In addition to the two major party candidates, Joseph Kennedy (who has no relation to the famous Kennedy family) is running as an independent.
This race is important for several reasons. First, like the Virginia and New Jersey Gubernatorial races before it, some people will claim that this election is another referendum on President Obama and the Democratically controlled Congress. Far more critical, however, is the resulting makeup of the United States Senate. With the current temporary Democratic appointee, the Democratic majority presently enjoys a filibuster proof 60-seat majority. Should this seat change hands, Republicans can stall or kill all sorts of legislation including the controversial national health care bill. Therefore, liberals and conservatives are taking special note of this election. Funds and activists across the nation have been pouring into the state as each side scrambles to gain an advantage. Even Barack Obama has made a number of campaign stops across Massachusetts in recent days, urging voters to support Coakley.
With turnout projected to be at least fifty percent, today’s vote should be particularly exciting in the Bay State. All eyes are on Massachusetts as activists of all stripes eagerly await news of this critical special election.