Polling in Massachusetts shows Reagan Democrats coming back 

As of press time, I have no idea what the outcome of the Massachusetts Senate race is going to be. But whatever the result, Republican state Sen. Scott Brown’s lead in the polls in deep-blue Massachusetts is an ominous sign for Democrats.

Three of the most recent polls — Public Policy Polling, American Research Group and Politico/Insider Advantage — show that Brown is winning 19, 23 and 24 percent, respectively, of the Democratic vote in the state. It’s entirely possible that nearly one in four Massachusetts Democrats are voting for a Republican to replace Ted Kennedy.

What Democrats are afraid of isn’t just the fact that a Brown victory would doom the health care reform they’ve expended nearly all their good will and political capital on. The bigger fear is that President Barack Obama’s ambitious agenda has become so unpopular the Brown template can be replicated.

If Democrats unaffected by  Obama’s liberal economic agenda start finding common cause with grassroots conservatives even in Taxachusetts, it can happen anywhere. We could be witnessing the return of the Reagan Democrats.

Republican campaign veteran Mary Matalin recently told National Review Online that “everyone I talk to says their Democrat friends and family are either voting for Scott Brown or not voting.”

Brown’s appeal to Democrats may be a bellwether rather than an anomaly in Massachusetts. Last year, state Treasurer Tim Cahill publicly renounced his Democratic Party affiliation on the grounds that the party was fiscally reckless. Cahill is now running for governor as an independent, but he made an interesting choice when he recently selected running mate Paul Loscocco, an anti-abortion Republican state representative who was the co-chair of Arizona Sen. John McCain’s Massachusetts presidential campaign.

A Rasmussen poll in late November showed Cahill in a statistical tie with incumbent Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick and Republican Charlie Baker. Notably, Rasmussen’s poll again showed Cahill taking 25 percent of the Democratic vote. A more recent poll taken last week, by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, has him only slightly behind.

Cahill’s fiscal emphasis contrasts sharply against a failed Democratic incumbent and liberal Northeast Republican. As governor, Patrick has an abysmal 7 percent approval rating among undecided voters, according to PPP, and the Bay State has been a fiscal basket case on his watch.

Republican candidate Baker is a health care executive. His running mate, Richard Tisei, has been called the “ultimate Beacon Hill insider” and has a record of being less than reliable in opposing tax increases.

The dynamics of a three-way race are always unpredictable, and Cahill isn’t poised to pull off a Scott Brown-level upset — yet. Regardless, like Brown, Cahill is proving that fiscal responsibility is a message that’s animating Democratic voters.

If politicians like Brown and Cahill begin energizing Reagan Democrats outside Massachusetts, the Democrats can kiss their permanent majority goodbye.


Mark Hemingway is an editorial page staff writer for The Washington Examiner.

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