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

Tag: Joe Kennedy

Anti-Coakley (and anti-Brown) push-polling reported

Friend of Media Nation John Doherty posts this in the comments:

here in Boston suburbs, I just got “push polled” on the election.

Oddly, they identified the candidates by party first “Republican Scott Brown” *, etc. and then asked if I supported either one (no mention of the faux Kennedy libertarian).

When I said Coakley (in fact, I already voted absentee in case of bad weather), they asked if it would change my vote if I knew Coakley supported “tax payer funding of abortions”.

Call came in around 8:40 Sunday night from DC number: 202 461-3440.

Reverse lookup tells me it’s a landline in Westchester, DC and is unpublished.

* odd because GOP label is pretty toxic here.

This is so mind-blowingly stupid that I have agree with John that it’s “odd.” My guess is it’s some right-wing organization working not just independently of Brown, but against his interests. Apparently they haven’t heard that Massachusetts isn’t Alabama.

I tried calling the number and got a busy signal.

Instant update: A poster at Universal Hub says the calls are connected to Americans in Contact PAC, a right-wing group.

Still more: Just saw a link on Twitter about push-polling linking Brown to “hate groups.” This is really getting ugly.

Polling the Senate race

Good luck making sense out of polls about the Massachusetts Senate race.

Following Democratic candidate Martha Coakley’s even-bigger-than-expected victory in the Dec. 8 primary, most political observers had assumed she would cruise in the final. That assumption has been looking questionable since last week, when a Rasmussen poll showed Coakley with just a nine-point margin over her Republican challenger, Scott Brown.

Then, last night, Public Policy Polling released the results of a survey showing Brown actually leading Coakley by a margin of 48 percent to 47 percent. Let the tea party begin!

A few hours later, the Boston Globe published a story about its own poll, in which Coakley is maintaining a comfortable 15-point lead.

So what’s going on here? Who knows?

Frankly, I would start by throwing out the Public Policy Polling survey — it’s a robocall. (“If Scott Brown, press 1. If Martha Coakley, press 2.”) Would you hang on the line? I wouldn’t.

I’ll also point out that the Globe’s poll was conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, a highly respected operation. I’m no polling expert, but I do know that Rasmussen gets mixed reviews.

Also, as best as I can tell from diving into the fine print, it looks like the Globe/UNH poll was the only one of the three in which respondents were specifically asked about the third candidate in the race, libertarian independent Joe Kennedy, who receives a not-insignificant 5 percent. Indeed, given the vagaries of polling, that alone could explain the difference between Rasmussen’s nine-point margin and the Globe’s 15-point spread.

What’s making everyone hypercautious is that we have absolutely no idea who’s going to turn out in the Jan. 19 special election. And what if there’s a blizzard?

My guess, though, is that Coakley’s right where you’d expect her to be with a little more than a week to go.

Analyzing the Senate debate — and iMovie ’09

Following last night’s Massachusetts Senate debate on and, I sat down with the moderator, political analyst Jon Keller, to get his thoughts on the debate and on the fine art of keeping such events on track.

My purpose, which Keller was generous enough to indulge, was to get some good news footage for my first experiment with iMovie ’09.

The basics are ridiculously easy. Inserting B-roll via iMovie’s cutaway command almost feels like cheating — you just drag and drop, and the software takes care of the rest. I had gotten to be relatively facile with iMovie 6, but B-roll on ’09 is much simpler and faster.

After separating the audio from the video, I was also able to start with Keller talking during the opening screen. But because iMovie ’09 lacks the precision timing of iMovie 6, I had to guess where to cut the video. It’s sheer luck that the audio and video are in reasonably good sync at the beginning of the piece.

Another annoyance: there doesn’t seem to be any way to add titles to B-roll photos and video. I tried to drop them in where they would make the most sense and where people’s identities would be obvious from the context. But that’s not always going to be good enough. Unless there’s a way to do it that I haven’t discovered, it’s a step down from iMovie 6.

The new iMovie really shines when it comes to uploading to YouTube — it handles the process automatically. No more futzing around with settings to see what looks best.

Overall, iMovie ’09 is a quantum leap over the wretched iMovie ’08, and I’m looking forward to working with it with my students next semester. I still like iMovie 6. But since it’s no longer available, I’m glad Apple has finally beaten its successor into reasonably good shape.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy Keller’s characteristically sharp analysis.

Live-blogging the Mass. Senate debate

I’m heading in to Boston in a bit to cover the first televised Massachusetts Senate debate, which will be moderated by political analyst Jon Keller. I’ll be posting a few observations here during the debate.

6:48 p.m. The media are set up in a second-floor conference room. There’s a flat-panel TV at one end of the room, which presumably will come on in a few minutes.

6:55 p.m. Moderator Jon Keller pops up five minutes early, then stops. The debate will be shown at 7 p.m. at and

7 p.m. The music is coming on.

7:03 p.m. Here we go. The debate is being broadcast on C-SPAN as well.

7:09 p.m. Good first question from a viewer — Massachusetts health-care reform has cost more than expected. What lessons can we learn? The Republican candidate, state Sen. Scott Brown, sort of deflects the question and says he would vote against the federal health-care-reform bill.

The Democrat, Attorney General Martha Coakley, explains why she’ll vote yes. “I think the plan will be good for Massachusetts.” The independent, Joe Kennedy, criticizes the Massachusetts system as being the most expensive in the country. “We should have addressed costs first,” Kennedy says.

Brown: “My role … is to look out for the interests of this state.” Coakley: “”They’re complementary plans. They don’t compete with each other.”

Kennedy: One of the premises of the Massachusetts plan was to control costs, and it hasn’t worked. “We’re going to end up bankrupting the country,” he says.

7:10 p.m. A weird question from a female viewer, who compares abortion coverage to Viagra coverage. Are those really analogous?

Brown claims Coakley has flip-flipped on her promise to vote against health-care reform if it restricts abortion rights. (She now says she’ll vote for the bill.) Coakley calls it “a compromise process,” but doesn’t really address abortion rights.

7:14 p.m. In response to a question on cash-for-clunkers, Kennedy says taxpayers spent $24,000 for every $8,000 that went  into buying cars — then says he has no idea if those numbers are correct. Thanks for sharing, Joe. (Note: Media Nation commenter @Harrybosch finds that Kennedy got it right.)

7:20 p.m. We seem to be on to Keller’s questions rather than those submitted by viewers. Good. In response to a question about taxes, Brown says, “I’m in favor of lowering taxes and creating jobs … and putting more money in people’s pockets.”

Coakley responds by saying most tax cuts in recent years have gone to the top 1 percent to 2 percent of earners — “between the haves and the have-mores.” Kennedy comes out in favor of the income-tax cut that was on the state ballot last year, and says Brown opposed it.

Brown: Coakley is in favor of $2.1 trillion in taxes. Coakley: Brown is talking about investments necessary to come out of an economic recession. Kennedy: “The problem here is spending.”

7:25 p.m. Keller asks Coakley what would be sufficient provocation for war. Coakley essentially responds it would have to be an attack on the U.S., Western Europe or Israel. Kennedy sort of says the same thing. Brown says America is good.

7:28 p.m. Brown goes on to note that he supports President Obama’s escalation in Afghanistan, unlike Coakley, who, in turn, says, “I just don’t think we can be successful.” Kennedy adds putting our troops in “harm’s way ought to be done with the utmost thoughtfulness.” Kennedy says the original mission in Afghanistan has been “completed,” and the current mission is “undefined.”

Brown: We need to prevent the Taliban from working with Al Qaeda and to stop nuclear weapons from falling into the wrong hands. Brown adds Obama needs the “tools and resources” to carry out his mission.

Kennedy says we can defend Pakistan without having a full-scale occupation of Afghanistan.

7:30 p.m. We’re in another break. My quick impression is that we’re having an intelligent, substantive debate among three politicians with widely differing philosophies. At least in terms of being able to deliver a credible performance, Kennedy has proven he belongs with Coakley and Brown.

7:34 p.m. The candidates are talking about children, who, as we know, are the future. Snarkiness aside, it’s an important issue, and I’m sorry to report I haven’t heard anything worth passing along.

7:37 p.m. Kennedy is really causing Brown some problems, saying that Brown supported former governor Mitt Romney in approving $1 billion in tax increases. Not quite sure what Kennedy means, though when it swings back to him, he talks about penalties that people have to pay if they don’t have health insurance.

7:40 p.m. Keller asks a question from @dankennedy_nu (hey, that’s me) as to whether a senator should reflect the views of his or her constituents or exercise independent judgment. I don’t think I’m being unfair by observing that Brown responds by saying he’ll do both, and that Coakley ignores the question. Kennedy says he’ll listen to his constituents, but he doesn’t really answer the question, either.

Brown: “Martha isn’t running against Bush and Cheney, she’s running against me.”

7:44 p.m. Neither Coakley nor Brown has an iota of charisma. If the polls are to believed, Coakley doesn’t need it, and Brown does. Kennedy actually comes across as a bit more engaging. Kennedy keeps challenging Brown on whether he truly supports spending cuts — just deadly. He’s stealing Brown’s lunch right off his plate. He even challenges Brown to put his voting record online.

7:47 p.m. Oh, this is good — Keller asks what the candidates do when they’re approached by panhandlers. I like Coakley’s answer: no. She says she’d rather they take advantage of the safety net.

Kennedy: “When individuals approach me, I offer to buy them a sandwich.” And he walks with them to make sure they do it.

Brown: I’ve given money, coffee and sandwiches. Gov. Deval Patrick has cut the non-profits that Coakley refers to. They’re hurting because of higher taxes and not enough jobs.

7:49 p.m. Coakley goes after the Boston Herald for a story she says was wrong and that it retracted. I confess I don’t know what she’s referring to. If a Media Nation reader has something on that, please post it in the comments. (Ask and ye shall receive. Commenter @Rich tracks it down.)

7:52 p.m. This is very impressionistic, and maybe it’s just me. But I think Kennedy is coming across a lot better than Brown in terms of stating a clear anti-government, anti-tax, anti-spending philosophy.

7:58 p.m. Keller closes by asking what caused 9/11. I love Kennedy’s answer: The 19 hijackers caused 9/11. (Given the way this live-blog is going, I guess I should remind everyone that Kennedy and I are not related.) Brown takes a shot at Coakley for supporting putting terrorists on trial in New York. Coakley doesn’t say much.

“We should not be providing taxpayer dollars to providing attorneys to represent these people in New York,” Brown says. Has he thought through the implications of what he’s saying? He also claims the money will be spent on those trials instead of the troops, an absurd allegation. Coakley calls him on it.

Coakley: “Protecting civil rights and holding people accountable” is what the Constitution requires.

8:36 p.m. Sorry for the abrupt cutoff. As soon as the debate was over, we all ran downstairs to interview the candidates. Probably the most notable quote was Brown’s saying of Coakley, “Martha’s a very nice lady, and I have great respect for her. But she’s wrong about policy.”

When Coakley was asked about the “nice lady” remark, she deflected any hint that she found it sexist, saying, “I don’t mind. I am a nice lady…. I try to be nice to my colleagues, and I don’t take any umbrage at it.”

Most of the press departed before Kennedy could have his close-up, but Boston Globe reporter Eric Moskowitz and I stuck around. I asked Kennedy if he were concerned that he might be hurting Brown’s chances of making a run at Coakley, given that both of them say they oppose taxes and spending.

“People have to vote their conscience,” he replied. “You have to look at people’s records when there’s nothing else.” He said state spending rose at twice the rate of inflation when Romney was governor, and that Brown never challenged him on that.

“If he hasn’t done it before,” Kennedy said, “I can’t believe he’s going to do it now.”

Coakley’s “other Kennedy” calculation

It’s hardly unusual when a prohibitive frontrunner says that independent candidates should be included in debates. The tactic can be an effective way of marginalizing the principal challenger.

In Martha Coakley’s case, though, I wonder if something else might be in play. It’s possible that she wants to be sure voters won’t walk into the booth on Jan. 19, be confronted with the name Joe Kennedy for the first time — and come to the wrong conclusion.

What to do about the other Joe Kennedy

Joe Kennedy

Joe Kennedy

With the primaries for the U.S. Senate now behind us, I’m starting to hear rumblings about a third candidate in the race — Joe Kennedy. No, he’s not the former congressman. Rather, he’s an independent who says his views “are closely aligned with the Libertarian Party.”

Thus the media’s perpetual dilemma. Do they cover someone who poses absolutely no threat either to Democratic candidate Martha Coakley or Republican Scott Brown? Or do they ignore him and face accusations of bias in favor of the two major parties?

Such matters should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Kennedy did have to get 10,000 signatures, just like Coakley and Brown. But the majors had to test themselves in contested primaries. Kennedy, by contrast, automatically won a spot on the ballot. It hardly seems right to put him on an equal footing.

I’d also draw a contrast between Kennedy’s candidacy and those of past longshot candidates who represented actual political parties. In recent years, the Green and Libertarian parties have briefly enjoyed major-party status thanks to the appeal of strong candidates like Jill Stein and Carla Howell, respectively. In situations like those, attention must be paid. But Kennedy is not a third-party candidate; he’s a no-party candidate.

Kennedy deserves some coverage, but certainly not equal coverage. And I’d invite him to the first televised debate. If he registers in subsequent poll results and can raise some money, then he’ll deserve to be taken seriously. If not, then the media shouldn’t be blamed for focusing on candidates who actually have some chance of winning.

Do the expedient thing

I am genuinely puzzled by a statement from U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano’s Senate campaign, reported in the Boston Globe. Capuano’s campaign treasurer, Bruce Percelay, was asked to comment on the fundraising advantage state Attorney General Martha Coakley has built. The Globe’s Matt Viser writes:

“Our hats go off to our competitors who were able to raise that much money,” said Bruce A. Percelay, treasurer for the Capuano campaign. He added that Coakley’s campaign had “a significant jump on us” because she declared earlier, while Capuano “made a conscious decision not to begin any fund-raising until Joe Kennedy made his decision.”

“If it temporarily puts us a little behind the starting line, then it was a small price to pay for doing the right thing,” Percelay said.

Yes, we all know that Capuano waited until Kennedy decided not to run for his uncle’s seat. No news there. What puzzles me is that the Capuano campaign wants everyone to know that.

Does the congressman want us to think he really does believe the Kennedys have a hereditary right to the seat? Does he honestly expect us to think Coakley disrespected the sainted memory of Ted Kennedy by jumping into the race while various and sundry Kennedys were pondering whether to run?

The outpouring of public affection for Ted Kennedy was genuine. In general, though, I think voters would like to see the Kennedys take their place in line like everyone else. You may have noticed that public reaction to Gov. Deval Patrick’s appointment of Kennedy coatholder Paul Kirk as interim senator wasn’t exactly enthusiastic.

Regardless of Coakley’s merits as a potential senator, I think her decision to jump in and not wait for the Kennedys can only help. As for Capuano, I would like to hear him explain directly why he apparently believes that Joe Kennedy would make a better senator than he would.

Anyone want to bet against Martha Coakley?

Martha Coakley

Martha Coakley

State Attorney General Martha Coakley is in a commanding position to succeed the late Sen. Ted Kennedy now that former congressman Joe Kennedy has announced he won’t run.

I doubt many people are surprised by Kennedy’s decision. Last week, WBZ-TV (Channel 4) political analyst Jon Keller and Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh both gave Kennedy a taste of what he could expect from the sensible center had he chosen to jump in. Needless to say, conservative talk radio would have savaged him.

Who would want to bet against Coakley? Not me. While several congressmen ponder whether they should give it a try, Coakley is already off and running. She’s won statewide, and the times would suggest that voters may be looking for something a little different. As a woman and as someone who’s not part of the Capitol Hill gang, Coakley can position herself as an outsider.

As for the Republicans, so far the party has been unable find someone willing to be a human sacrifice. Former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey, who at least would have been well-funded, has decided against running.

Call this a gut sense rather than a prediction, but barring a major unexpected development — like Victoria Reggie Kennedy getting in — this race may be over before it even begins.

Photo (cc) by weinbergagain and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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