Other races we’re looking at tomorrow

With polls opening in one days time, we’ve some thoughts on the state of the race and some other races that have gotten a bit less attention.

Professor Cunningham:  As we await the traditional opening of the polls for Election Day tomorrow, some closing thoughts on campaigns we’ve discussed and some of the politics we’ve not examined as closely.

We’ve certainly talked about the Scott Brown-Elizabeth Warren race. Few US senate races are highly competitive in Massachusetts and not many have attracted the quality of candidates that this one has. I don’t put enormous stock in every TV advertisement that runs but I think the last ads by Senator Brown and Elizabeth Warren capture some of the essence of the choice each represents.

Senator Brown’s ad “People Over Party” emphasizes that the candidate is an Independent voice in Washington willing to work in a bipartisan fashion. The ad features a number of quick cuts including one of the senator with President Barack Obama. This reflects the reality of Brown’s appeal and accounts for the unpopularity of his political party. Elizabeth Warren’s ad “For All Our Families” stresses that she is a fighter who will do battle for middle class families and she won’t back down no matter how powerful the opposition. She gets the Equal Pay for Women Act in there too. The ads strike me as a fair representation of what the campaign themes have been and reflective of the choice we face.

As for a Massachusetts race we’ve paid less attention to I’ve been thinking some about Question 2, the physician assisted suicide ballot question. Stephanie Ebbert wrote about the question in the November 2 Boston Globe, Ballot question is a matter of life-or death. My interest revolves around the effort of the Catholic Church to defeat a proposal it considers to be morally objectionable. At one time in this state the opposition of the Church would be fatal. But the Church’s influence has been on a long decline. Ebbert reports on sizable monetary contributions to the No on 2 campaign from the Archdiocese of Boston and even dioceses across the nation. The money buys TV ads, but does the Church have any influence with the nearly half of residents who still identify themselves as Catholic? Money isn’t bodies.

Rather than write about an under-covered national race, I’ll just say that the presidential campaign has sorely ignored important issues that confront the country. The Obama administration in its 2009 prediction of unemployment of under 6%, and the Romney campaign in its critique of the recovery have ignored the reality of how deep the contraction was and how long it historically takes to dig ourselves out. I’ve written about this before most recently in This Time Is Different, Again?  Then, in the wake of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy, it occurred to many of us that the presidential candidates had never engaged about global warming. Finally I was intrigued by an Opinion piece in the Washington Post by Greg Jaffe, The world is safer. But no one in Washington can talk about it. Jaffe writes: “When it comes to foreign policy, the incentives on the campaign trail run toward ruin: Aspirants to public office praise the troops and preach the possibility of global doom.”

As a means to engage and educate the citizenry about our common stake, campaigns are too often a flat failure.

Professor Ubertaccio: I’m watching one race close to home (literally, to quote the Vice President).  I’ve noted before that I have the good fortune of living in a real two-party town.  Sandwich has a very competitive state representative race between the Republican incumbent, Randy Hunt, and his Democratic challenger Patrick Ellis.

The outcome of this race will help determine the future of two-party politics in Massachusetts.

This race will test the GOTV of both parties in an area that has been amendable to Republicans.  The 5th District seat was won by Jeff Perry who held it until his run for Congress in 2010.  Sandwich Republicans have a very active local organization and a strong get out the vote operation and the climate is amendable: John Kerry narrowly lost the town in 2004 and Barack Obama won by only 1 percentage point.

Perry used the strength of that organization to launch his run for Congress in 2010.

His successor, Hunt, beat back a very strong challenge that year by Lance Lambros.  That Republican success came amid strong pushback from the state’s Democratic party that helped–narrowly–to reelect Senate President Therese Murray and put Bill Keating over the top in the congressional race.

Now Hunt faces another strong challenge and an even greater test, one that will help determine whether the state can remain two-party at any level.  In Patrick Ellis, the Democrats have found a candidate with very high name recognition in Sandwich and they’ve invested time, energy, and finances to turn the town blue.

Republican efforts will be buoyed here by a second run by another Sandwich resident, Tom Keyes, against Therese Murray.  Brown and Romney should carry the town.

In the 9th congressional district, Bill Keating faces a token opponent who is still likely to take a healthy dose of the vote year, evidence of the strong conservative tilt of the district and certainly not the quality of the GOP congressional campaign.

Democratic Party chair John Walsh has put a lot of effort into his coordinated campaign strategy and has had his volunteers knocking on doors since the spring.

If a town like Sandwich can be turned blue by the aggressive approach Walsh has pursued, Republicans should quietly turn out their lights in Massachusetts and discontinue the farce of acting like an organized political party.

A Hunt victory can help the GOP keep a flicker of hope.

Professor Duquette: I have been keeping an eye on the Senate race next door. Linda McMahon’s effort to buy a US Senate seat in Connecticut seems to be providing a very interesting and potentially useful case study on the impact of unlimited campaign financing. On Wednesday, I am eager to begin sorting out the stories of Scott and Linda, two blue state Republicans trying to get elected by denying their loyalty to the Republican Party. Even a cursory glance at their campaign rhetoric from 2010 (something the news media never really did during this year’s races) show two very different types of campaigns. Scott and Linda are eager to “work with” President Obama in 2012. In 2010? Not so much. It appears that Scott and Linda will both come up a bit short tomorrow, though for political scientists it would be more interesting if one of them won and the other lost. We’ll see.

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