Republican Brown finishes strong in Bay State Senate showdown 

BOSTON -- The day before one of the most closely watched Senate races in memory, Democratic candidate Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown worked feverishly to shore up support among Massachusetts residents who will vote in a special election Tuesday to fill the seat vacated by the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy.

The insurgent Brown, who once trailed Coakley by 30 points in early surveys, continued to lead in late polls and draw big, excited crowds across the state. Several hundred people came out during a snowstorm Tuesday to meet him as he walked the streets of Andover and throngs of people nearly crushed him at a stop outside the home of the Boston Bruins.

Coakley crowds have been more subdued. She held her campaign's closing rally in the Boston suburb of Framingham, where she drew a crowd about 275 to a middle school gymnasium. Staffers had partitioned the gym in half.

Brown held his closing rally that his staff says attracted 750 at a restaurant in his hometown of Wrentham, capping off a campaign that has surprised the Bay State and the nation and given hope to the Republican Party that the political tides are turning in its favor and the GOP can possibly end the Democrats' filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Marynia Mackiewicz, 51, of Cambridge, showed up to meet Brown before the Bruins game.

"I'm tired of Massachusetts just writing off Republicans," Mackiewicz said "And I am so sick of hearing this is Teddy's seat."

Brown's apparent lead, she said, "is poetic justice."

While pollsters say a surprise upset may be looming, Coakley is by no means throwing in the towel. She campaigned across the state Monday, hitting cities in western Massachusetts after attending a Martin Luther King Day event with Brown.

She stopped off at a diner in Newton, a heavily Democratic area, and greeted supportive but unenthusiastic diners.

"We've got incredible momentum out there," Coakley insisted to the people as they ate their breakfast. "We are going to get out the vote and we are going to do this."

But Coakley backers are not as confident

"I'm concerned, but I'm hoping that maybe the fact that she's trailing in the polls it will energize people to vote for her," said Allan Lehmann, 60, a Newton rabbi.

Coakley worked to capitalize on the Democrats' clear advantage with registered voters, telling voters she meets to "arrive with five" additional people who will cast a ballot for her.

But what Brown lacks in GOP party strength, he makes up for with voter enthusiasm, which may help him win by drawing out more voters, particularly independents, who favor him.

People lined up to shake his hand in front of the TD Garden before the Bruin's game, where Brown stood for an hour as the sky spit snow and rain.

"Did you come to see the game," he asked one voter, who answered, "Nope, I came here just to see you."

It is that kind of support that Coakley lacks and her backers fear will cost her the race.

"I don't get the feeling she is connecting politically with people with what she stands for," said one Coakley volunteer who asked to have his name withheld. "Which is sort of sad."

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