Mary Katharine Ham
It's judgment day in Massachusetts today, where Republican Jim Ogonowski (endorsed by Rightroots) is running an unexpectedly close race against Democrat Niki Tsongas. Turnout is expected to be low and GOTV important as ever:
City and town clerks said turnout is likely to be a few points higher than it was for the Sept. 4 primaries, when only 18 percent of the district's voters cast their ballots the day after Labor Day.

In raw numbers, that means it should be higher than the combined 70,000 who turned out for last month's party primaries, though it may not hit 100,000. By comparison, more than 216,000 residents from the district voted in last year's general election, which included statewide races for governor and other general officers.

Ognowski's biography-- retired Air Force lieutenant and brother of one of the pilots killed on 9/11-- his deft messaging and hard work have put him within single digits of Tsongas in a heavily Democratic district that hasn't elected a Republican since 1972. As a result, he's reportedly working GOTV harder than Tsongas, whom he calls "Queen Tsongas" to point out her sense of entitlement to the seat vacated by retiring Martin Meehan.

Democrat Niki Tsongas, the other headliner in the race, employed a slightly less frenetic pace, visiting several senior centers and holding an ice cream social as she sought to claim for herself the House seat once held by her late husband and 1992 presidential contender, Paul Tsongas.

"Tomorrow’s it," Niki Tsongas, 61, told several silver-haired listeners at the Dracut senior center. "Tomorrow’s decision day."

Yet while Ogonowski flitted about looking for support, planning 40 rapid-fire stops on Monday, Tsongas continued to pound away on her opponent for refusing to state how he would vote — if elected — on a presidential override scheduled for Thursday.

His strategy may light a path for Republicans through an increasingly bleak-looking 2008 campaign season:
But he has also added a theme that could help GOP hopefuls next year, particularly those competing for open seats: a relentless chorus of complaints about the competency of Congress and the culture of Washington in general. 

“This election is clearly a referendum on our Congress - it’s not working for us,” Ogonowski said in an interview last week. “I’ve been asking every single group I meet in front of, ‘Anyone here like the job Congress is doing?’ I have yet to have a person in the Fifth District tell me they like it.” 
In even better news, Ogonowski's good numbers come at a much lower cost than Tsongas', which is very helpful indeed for our poor, penuried Republicans.
As of Sept. 26, Tsongas had raised $1.93 million, compared with $434,000 for Ogonowski. 
Help us, Obi-Wan Ogonowski. You're our only hope. He's obviously gone very distant from the Iraq war and Bush and portrayed himself as an outsider in a way many of our guys can't do, but the close numbers in an unexpected venue are instructive.

Update: A Red-Stater reports from the ground in Massachusetts.





Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of HotAir.com, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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