Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
If you want to see a confusing study in contrasts, just look at Massachusetts this morning. Republicans didn't just hold Scott Brown's state Senate seat in a special election. Their nominee, state Rep. Richard Ross, won in a blowout. He took 62% of the vote in a district that President Obama carried easily in 2008. While it's vastly less consequential than Brown's election to the U.S. Senate, Ross' huge win would seem to offer the same sort of confirmation that the GOP has an opportunity to make substantial gains in the Bay State.
However, Rasmussen, a pollster that tends to produce favorable numbers for Republicans, has a survey out this morning that would seem to suggest there's nothing for Bay State Democrats to worry about. Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick leads his nearest rival, Republican Charlie Baker, by 14 points. In March, Rasmussen had Patrick up by just 3 points. Rasmussen has Obama's approval rating at 63%, which is slightly higher than the percentage of the vote he received in 2008. How do you reconcile these two results?
The simplest answer, I think, is that neither the special election nor the governor's race is really a typical election. In the race for Brown's seat, Democrats were burdened by a primary fight that alienated voters in Needham, a Democratic bastion they needed to win. In the governor's race, Patrick's 14-point lead doesn't really reflect a vote of confidence for Democratic leadership. He benefits from the presence of independent Tim Cahill, which is making it easy for him to build a solid lead without actually having majority support (I'd also guess that this Rasmussen poll is a bit of an outlier). I'd say there's a good chance that Republicans perform the best they have in years in Massachusetts and yet still fail to do what they did every four years from 1990 through 2002: elect a Republican governor.
A couple of other results yesterday: Jason Carter, Jimmy Carter's grandson, was elected to the Georgia Senate. Cory Booker was reelected mayor of Newark, New Jersey easily, but at least one of his allies on the City Council lost. Still, there weren't too many signs of nostalgia for former mayor Sharpe James (a Booker foe). His son failed to win a seat on the Council.
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