Daniel Doherty
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According to a new public opinion poll conducted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Democrat Elizabeth Warren now leads Republican Scott Brown by 4 percentage points in the hotly contested 2012 Massachusetts Senate race. The Boston Herald reports:

 

Warren’s 43-39 lead among 500 registered voters barely falls within the 4.4 percent margin of error in the University of Massachusetts Amherst iSurvey Project online poll conducted by YouGov America. Fourteen percent said they were undecided when asked to choose between Warren and Brown.

“These numbers could mean trouble for Scott Brown,” UMass Amherst political scientist Brian Schaffner said. “The race is a dead heat and his support is well under 50 percent, which usually means difficulty for an incumbent, especially this far out from Election Day.”

The poll, conducted between Nov. 9 and Nov. 22, shows Brown leading Warren by a 49-31 spread among independent voters, a margin that Schaffner says may need to be larger for Brown to prevail next year. Warren’s support bases are in western Massachusetts and the Boston area, while Brown does better in the regions outside of Boston, including central Massachusetts, where there are more independent voters.

But before right-leaning Massachusians and self-described RINOs lose their cool, there’s this:

 

Pollsters say the survey results show potential areas of weakness for Warren. They used as an example answers to a question in which survey takers were asked to pick one word to describe Warren and Brown. The most frequent words used to describe Warren were liberal (36), intelligent (23), socialist (18) and smart (17). For Brown, voters used moderate (20), honest (16), conservative (12) and Republican (8).

“If Brown can solidify his position as the moderate in this race while painting Warren as too liberal, he has a good chance of winning re-election,” said Schaffner.

In other words, one of Scott Brown’s strengths as a candidate – and why he is verifiably popular in an overwhelming blue state – is because his moderate stances on crucial issues are in tune with Bay State voters. After all, according the survey, one-fifth of the electorate identify him as a moderate – whereas more than half consider Elizabeth Warren to be either liberal or a socialist. Simply put, Massachusetts is overwhelmingly comprised of Independent voters, and Warren’s tendency to use extreme language and support unpalatable protest movements could potentially ostracize more centrist voting blocs in the critical months ahead.

Moreover, it’s also worth noting that as a chief sponsor of the STOCK Act – the bill introduced to prohibit insider trading by members of Congress – Brown has adeptly painted himself as a trustworthy public servant resolutely determined to end government-corporate collusion. It’s telling that one of the most frequent words used to describe him is “honest,” a characteristic that seems to be sorely lacking inside the corridors of Congress. Not surprisingly, this will likely give him a slight edge during the campaign.

Nevertheless, the key to Scott Brown’s bid for re-election, in my view, is to convince Massachusetts voters that Elizabeth Warren is a liberal ideologue incapable of governing as a moderate. And considering everything we’ve seen thus far, I can’t imagine that being overly difficult.

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Daniel Doherty

Daniel Doherty is Townhall's Deputy News Editor. Follow him on Twitter @danpdoherty.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography