If John Kerry is confirmed as the next Secretary of State, there will be a special election in Massachusetts to fill his seat in the middle of 2013. Scott Brown could be one of the names put forward by the Republican Party as he has already served in the Senate and won a special election in 2010 to fill the seat vacated by Ted Kennedy. If he decides to run, he has a number of factors that could help him re-join the Senate.
While Massachusetts is a solidly Democratic state, in 2012 Brown lost to Elizabeth Warren by a much closer margin (53-47) than that of his counterpart for President, Mitt Romney (60-38). In an election not held in conjunction with a race for the Presidency, the electorate should likely be more favorable to Brown’s chances. And his success in the 2010 senate race showed that he can mobilize his supporters to get out to the polls in a special election.
Some of the data points from the 2012 exit poll also show that Brown is still quite popular among Massachusetts voters. The first positive sign for him is that Independents supported him. In the 2012 Senate election, 45% of the voters were Independent and they supported Brown 59-41. For a Republican to win in Massachusetts they have to win Independents by a wide margin and Brown has shown he can do that, even in a presidential election year.
The second positive sign for Brown is that in the 2012 general election, he was viewed favorably by 60% of the electorate. This was actually higher than his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Warren and only slightly less than Barack Obama at 63%.
The third positive sign is that when asked about Brown’s positions on the issues, 50% of voters said that his views were “about right”. This shows that even though Brown is a Republican in Massachusetts, voters view him as someone who is not very extreme in his views.
Although these advantages exist for Brown, there are also some negative factors working against him. The first negative sign is that the 2012 campaign for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts was very bruising. When we asked voters if either of the candidates attacked the other unfairly, 61% answered that Scott Brown attacked Elizabeth Warren unfairly. Even with Brown’s high favorability rating, if the electorate views him as someone who attacks his opponent unfairly, it could tarnish his image as a moderate.
The second negative sign is that when we asked voters what candidate quality mattered most in deciding how they voted, 32% said “Cares about people like me”. Of those 32%, Brown received less than a quarter of their vote. If the people of Massachusetts don’t think he cares about them, they might find it harder to vote for him.
As Scott Brown weighs his decision on whether to run in a special election for John Kerry’s senate seat there are both positive and negative data points that he can look at. Special elections are more likely to be decided on who can get their voters out to the polls and Brown has shown that he can do that and according to our exit poll the people of Massachusetts view him favorably. If he decides to run he will be a formidable opponent against whomever the Democratic Party nominates.