Elizabeth Warren leads Senator Scott Brown in a poll recently released by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The poll, conducted from Nov. 9 to 22, shows Warren with a 4-point lead over Brown, 43 to 39 percent, among registered voters. Warren's lead is just within the poll's margin of error of 4.4 percent. Fourteen percent of the respondents were undecided.
"These numbers could mean trouble for Scott Brown," said UMass political scientist Brian Schaffner, in a statement released on the university's website. "The race is a dead heat and his support is well under 50 percent, which usually means difficulty for an incumbent, especially this far out from Election Day."
Sen. Brown, the junior Senator from Massachusetts, is up for reelection in 2012. He was the surprise winner of a special election in January 2010 to fill the late Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy's seat, who died in office in August 2009. The UMass poll does have some good news for Brown. Independent voters favored the incumbent Senator by a wide margin, 49 to 31 percent.
According to Schaffner, that may not be enough. "Because of the advantage Democrats hold in this state, Republicans must dominate the independent vote to win," he said. "Brown's 18-point edge among Independents is impressive and similar to what Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker enjoyed in 2010, but that edge was not large enough to push Baker to victory."
This new result is a dramatic flip-flop from a poll conducted in October by Western New England University. In that poll, Brown enjoyed a five point advantage over Warren, 47 to 42 percent, with 10 percent undecided. But like the recent UMass poll, Brown enjoyed a significant advantage over Warren with independents, 57 to 32 percent.
Warren is the Democratic favorite by a wide margin. In the UMass poll, amongst likely Democratic primary voters, Warren was preferred by 73 percent of the respondents. None of her three rivals cracked double digits.
In both of these polls, those who identified as Democrats and Republicans overwhelmingly preferred their party's candidate over the other. With their political bases already solidified, the winner may well be the candidate that persuades Massachusetts independents to vote their way. For Warren, she has to convince an electorate that doesn't yet know her very well that she is the champion of the middle class she portrays herself to be. Brown's strategy would be to repeat his 2010 campaign. "If Brown can solidify his position as the moderate in this race while painting Warren as too liberal, he has a good chance of winning re-election," Schaffner said.