Will Scott Brown become Charlie Brown in 2013?

If the latest polling results convince Scott Brown to enter the race to fill John Kerry’s senate seat, odds are he will end up looking like Charlie Brown when its all said and done. The chances of the football being there when he tries to kick it are not good. Polls showing Brown with a comfortable lead over his likely Democratic opponents simply do not mean what the media consistently pretends they mean.

In the run up to his 2012 drubbing by Elizabeth Warren, I tried to explain this to anyone who would listen. It’s not because the polls are flawed. Its because the results of such polls are almost universally mis-interpreted in the media.

The theory that Brown has a better chance in a special than a regularly scheduled election has merit, as does the idea that he would be better off in the 2014 midterm than he was in the 2012 presidential election. BUT, even if we give maximum credence to these theories, Brown remains a clear underdog in both the imminent special election and (even if he’s the incumbent) the 2014 race for a full senate term. NOTHING in the polls being cited as evidence of his chances in recent days and weeks contradicts this fundamental reality.

If Brown chooses to make one or the other of these runs, then he should do so with the understanding that he will need his A+ game and quite a bit of luck to prevail. Obviously, if he does jump in, we will not know whether he’s in with sober expectations or has been duped into climbing a hill that is much steeper than his admirers think it is.

If Brown runs, I will happily use this space to provide a sober and realistic chronicling of his chances throughout. Presently, I have no good reason to give him anything better than a one in four chance of winning the special election. I will try to explain the apparent gap between my expectations and the popular interpretations of recent polls in the weeks and months ahead.

About Jerold Duquette

Jerold Duquette is an associate professor of political science at Central Connecticut State University. He is the author of Regulating the National Pastime: Baseball and Antitrust and has published articles and book chapters on campaign finance reform, political parties, Massachusetts politics and political culture, public opinion, and political socialization. Professor Duquette lives in Longmeadow, MA with his wife and four children.
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