Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren should focus on Sen. Scott Brown's Republican affiliation and continue to tie him to the national GOP during the final stretch of his campaign: that's the main finding of this week's Blue Commonwealth survey of influential Massachusetts Democrats.
Three polls by three separate polling organizations showing Warren ahead of Brown—but barely—were released early last week.
Further illustrating how tight the race has become, hours after Patch sent the survey out to Massachusetts Republicans, another poll by UMass Lowell and the Boston Herald showed Brown ahead of Warren by 6 points, with a 5.5 percent margin of error, after an UMass Lowell/Herald poll nine months ago had Warren leading by 7.
Almost half of the influential Massachusetts Democrats that Patch surveyed, 48.2 percent, said that Warren's reported rise in the polls is most likely attributable to a post-Democratic National Convention bump that energized Democrats and left-leaning independents, while 29.6 percent attributed it to other factors, such as grassroots strength and voters "learning more about both candidates."
Those surveyed expressed confidence in the efficacy of Warren's get-out-the-vote organization compared to Brown's, with 37 percent saying it's "much better" than Brown's and 40.7 percent saying it's "somewhat better."
Reach Out to All Demographic Groups
The Western New England University (WNEU)'s Polling Institute's poll last week showed Brown leading Warren among male voters 49-44, while Warren led among female voters in the same poll 55-40. Asked which strategy Warren should focus on regarding the gender gap, influential Massachusetts Democrats were split: 37 percent said she should focus on cementing and extending her lead with female voters, 25.9 percent said she should try to make gains among male voters, and 33.3 percent voted "other."
In the "other" responses, some Democrats said Warren shouldn't focus on one demographic or another and go after voters from both groups, with one respondent adding that in focusing on both groups, Warren should be "providing a message that meets the needs of all, not some."
Asked how Warren could win over either male or female voters, some respondents focused on the "War on Women" theme used by Warren's campaign to cement and extend her lead with female voters.
"Remind women that if Brown wins and the Republicans take back the Senate, it will be bad for women on reproductive issues, women's health, and workplace issues," one respondent wrote. "And that Brown tried to bully Warren during the first debate and obviously feels intimidate by smart, successful women, since he keeps sarcastically referring to her as 'The Professor.'"
Other respondents urged Warren's campaign to focus on economic issues, such as taxes and bills such as the American Jobs Act, and contrast her stances on those issues with Brown's, while connecting Brown to the national GOP's stances on the issues.
Define Scott Brown as Republican, Not Independent
Asked what should be the primary issue that Warren should focus on during the final stretch of the campaign, most of the survey respondents said Warren should go after Brown for his voting record, which respondents described as "not independent" and "consistently with the Republican right wing."
Some respondents said that in defining Brown as a Republican, the Warren campaign should also emphasize the possibility of Republicans controlling the Senate, while others said Warren should focus on contrasting her views on economic issues with Republicans' views.
"Republican economic policies gave the middle class almost a decade of stagnation, followed by an economic collapse from which we're still recovering," one respondent wrote. "Once again, the GOP 'solution' is more tax cuts for the super-rich. We tried that, and it didn't work. Scott Brown says he's independent, but he only acts that way when it's easy. On the hard votes, on the important votes, Scott Brown toes the party line."
Brown and Warren had their first debate of four last week and most of the respondents leaned towards the debates deciding the race, with 59.3 somewhat agreeing it would be the deciding factor in the race and 18.5 percent strongly agreeing. Another 18.5 percent was neutral on the impact the debates would have on the race.
Red and Blue Commonwealth Survey
Our surveys are not a scientific, random sample of any larger population, but rather an effort to listen to a group of influential local Republican and Democratic activists, party leaders, candidates and elected officials in Massachusetts. All of these individuals have agreed to participate in Massachusetts’ Patch surveys, although not all responded to this story’s questions. Answers have been edited for style, but not for content.
Patch will be conducting Red Commonwealth and Blue Commonwealth surveys throughout the 2012 election season in hopes of determining the true sentiment of conservatives and progressives on the ground in Massachusetts. If you are an activist, party leader or elected official and would like to take part in periodic surveys that last just a few minutes, contact Associate Regional Editor Daniel DeMaina at email@example.com.