By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The Senate race and the media

In my latest for the Guardian, I argue that the national attention being paid to the Massachusetts Senate race has more to do with a simplistic media narrative — and one outlying poll — than it does with Republican candidate Scott Brown’s actual chances of winning.

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Quick thoughts on the Senate debate


The Boston-Haiti connection


  1. Steve Stein

    Are Americans so angry with Barack Obama and the Democrats that voters in liberal Massachusetts would hand the late Ted Kennedy’s senate seat over to a conservative Republican who vows to destroy healthcare reform?

    Ooooh you’re in trouble now, Dan. It’s NOT “the Kennedy seat”, it belongs to the people of Massachusetts!

    Cue the Outrage Machine in 3, 2, 1 …

  2. Harrybosch

    “As for Obama himself, his favourability and job-approval ratings are holding up reasonably well.”

    Who adds the extraneous “u”?

    Do you write it that way, or do they misspell fix it across the pond?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Harrybosch: I generally write it in ’Merikun, and let them run it through the Brit-o-tron. Although there are a few Britishisms I’ve become so accustomed to that I do it for them, like “organisation.” It’s kind of odd, since they would probably say I write for primarily an American audience.

  3. lkcape

    I disagree.

    Media attention is being drawn because it is the first election of 2010, no matter how lopsided the result may or may not be. You in the media are really just sheep.

    Media attention is being drawn because it WAS Senator Kennedy’s seat. Only if not that Kennedy wins will it be Kennedy’s seat.

    Media attention is being drawn because it is a not-a-Camelot-Kennedy-in-sight race. People want to see if the late Senator’s ghost has legs.

    Media attention is being drawn because, as you mention, all three of the polls are plausible. No one knows which.

    Is there something wrong with the media attention?

    Or are you, just a tad, sensitive as to the process that media exposure might show as (distastefully) “Democratic” instead of “democratic”.

    As with the votes in Virginia and New Jersey, the vote in Massachusetts will be one ripple of the wave of the national vote, expressed in a very state-specific way.

    Trends over time are much more revealing than the snapshot that a single election provides, and to draw conclusions would be like…your jump into the frenzy of alleged push polling. (Looking for the scoop, eh?)

    It is interesting to note that you are willing to allude to your British audience about current media “trends” in their critique of the Obama administration, and you studiously avoid discussing that subject here.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Ikcape: Your need to personalize everything is truly breathtaking. You know what? Brown will win or lose. And the Guardian will still pay me to write a weekly column. You’re damn right I give the Guardian audience (not British audience — there’s a huge American readership) more than I am readers of Media Nation. They pay me to give them more.

  4. Tom G

    Scott Brown intends to win Kennedy’s seat … and then piss on it by obstructing all legislative matters taken up on ideological grounds.

    But if Brown wins, he will not as the incumbent win again in 2012. And the Democrats would have a better more progressive and harder working Senate candidate with legislative experience and a full campaign cycle to be vetted and elected.

  5. Harrybosch

    “Your need to personalize everything is truly breathtaking.”

    I’m thinkin’ you flunked him or something. It really is one of the few non-pathological explanations.

    That being said, in this instance, I agree with much of his (non-personal) analysis.

  6. Scutch

    lkcape and O-Fish-L are on the front lines of a culture war that they know is lost. They should move on and concentrate on what is best for our future.

  7. Treg

    I like this part:

    “As with the votes in Virginia and New Jersey, the vote in Massachusetts will be one ripple of the wave of the national vote, expressed in a very state-specific way.”

    Whatever the outcome, it already fits the pattern.

  8. Treg

    Tom G, I’ve been trying to resist thinking that way. But it’s not easy.

    Maybe it’ll work out that way even with a Coakley win.

  9. Tom G

    Check out this article by David Filipov, In short race, Coakley picks targets carefully“. OMG it’s an embarrassment. Do you think David wrote it himself or asked Coakley PR guy do it for him?

  10. Tom G

    Treg, If she, a Democrat wins now, she’s in until she retires. Party registrations in MA are 3:1 D:R. But of Brown wins…

  11. Tom G

    I should have said, I think I’m going to write-in my preferred Democratic candidate from the primary.

  12. Steve Stein

    Tom G – party registration in MA is really 4:3:1, with the “4” being “Unenrolled”.

  13. lkcape

    If it is all for pay, Dan, then why do you place yourself in the public spotlight?

    Your inconsistencies and biases are fair game, just as are mine when I when I comment in a public forum.

    Are you, somehow, exempt from critique?

    The anger in your authorial voice tells me that nerves have been struck and that you fear that the criticism has exposed some level of truth.

  14. Harrybosch

    “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”

    — Bertrand Russell

  15. Nial Liszt

    Dan- Pauline Kael on line 2. Something about outliers.

  16. Lafcadio Mullarkey

    Nial wow, obscure reference prize!

    In that vein: Anger in Dan’s authorial voice doesn’t imply nerves struck in actual Dan. In fact if anything the reverse, as the point of an authorial voice is that it is distinct from the “real” author.

    I wish my name was Arthur. Then I could have an Arthurial voice. The closest I can get is a Homerian voice, as in “Bring me my ranch dressing hose.”

  17. O-FISH-L

    @Scutch: I hadn’t even planned to weigh in on this one, but thanks for thinking of me.

    While I won’t concede the war, I for one am focused on the future, and his name is Scott Brown. He’s never lost an election and I think the streak remains intact on Tuesday and again in 2012. People in his overwhelmingly Democrat district love him and I think the rest of the state has come to feel the same way. Martha? Not so much.

  18. mike_b1

    I just got this image of O-Fish, sitting in her parlor on Jan. 19, sipping MD 20/20 and muttering “scott brown is the future … scott brown is the future … scott brown is the future …” as Martha Coakley gives her victory speech.

  19. Treg

    Mike, I’d like to think you’re right. I really hope you’re right. But this state did actually elect Mitt Romney governor not that long ago.

    The reason? The Democrats picked a lousy candidate who had no idea how to run a campaign. Progressives were turned off and the handsome Ken doll with the phony smile appealed to all the independents and undecideds and various and sundry other “swing voters” who vote based on who knows what.

    Sound familiar?

  20. O-FISH-L

    @mike_b1: Way to stay classy, Mike!

  21. mike_b1

    Treg, I don’t think the comparison to Shannon O’Brien is a good one. Other than being women and Democrats, there’s little to link the two. O’Brien was shrill, relatively uniformed and was running for a job that Mass. had consistently handed to white men. And her husband was an Enron lobbyist.

    Keep in mind, Romney only received 49% of the vote … Deval Patrick by comparison pulled in 56%, and Weld 71% in his second go-around. Even Celluci topped 50%. It’s safe to say, no one was thrilled with Romney before the election — and they were less thrilled immediately after. If anything, I think those who remember Romney are probably hugely turned off by the similarities between the Massachusetts Morman and Smiling Scott Brown Shirt.

    Coakley is a far superior candidate to O’Brien, and is running for a legislative seat, not an executive one. I see a big difference there in the eyes of the electorate.

  22. Rick in Duxbury

    @mike_b1:”Smiling Scott Brown Shirt”? I must have missed that policy statement. I suspect the ad hominems will reach a fever pitch in the next few days. What’s next, Gail Huff bloopers?

  23. hithimagain

    rickylake: I’ve seen him in a Brown Shirt. What’s the big deal?

  24. Treg

    Mike, the brown shirt thing is in poor taste. I can’t stand the guy either, but let’s not stoop. Those kinds of references are disrepectful to the people who suffered through the real thing.

    As for O’Brien and Coakley, here’s at least one thing they have in common: both ran absolutely terrible campaigns.

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