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Massachusetts Mathematics

Within the span of a week, three polls concerning the special election to replace the late Edward Kennedy have put the contestants at wildly different standings. It has allowed political parties to claim obviously contested ground while commentators, rather than analyze polling methods, delight in the skill, humility and finesse of their preferred candidate. Either Scott Brown (Elephant) or Martha Coakley (Donkey) will be elected to replace Senator Kennedy on January 19th. Should Brown win, he may give the Elephants the seat they need to filibuster in the Senate.

A Boston Globe poll puts Coakley up by fifteen points.

Public Policy Polling has Brown leading by a point.

A Rasmussen poll splits the difference, putting Coakley ahead by nine points.

It seems only the Weekly Standard has noted these wide disparities and is making peanuts out of the story to feed its Elephant readership. Perhaps it’s for the better that more people aren’t analyzing polls. More attention is being placed on the fact that the Senate race is the Elephants’ first opportunity to undo the Donkeys’ supermajority.

It’s not all straight politics, though. There are a couple tassels that decorate this race: there is infighting amongst the so-called Tea Party—that loose collection of bellowers too attentive to conservative media to hold a conservative ideology and too proud of their simplicity to call themselves libertarians—over endorsing Brown; and after weeks of standing on the sidelines as evidence of Coakley’s icy relationship with the Kennedy family, they have come out to support her.

Depending on when the House and Senate healthcare bills are reconciled, the special election to replace Senator Kennedy could get bitterly political. Kennedy’s former aide who currently occupies his seat, Paul Kirk, will vote for any reconciled health care bill. Brown has promised to oppose it; he would give the Elephants the seat it needs to kill the bill with a filibuster.

However, Donkeys control the confirmation process and have said that Brown’s swearing in as Senator could “take a while”. That means they could delay his swearing in until after healthcare legislation has been signed into law.


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