MA: Obama on the Move in Bay State
By Lyndsey Layton
Barack Obama is quickly eating away at large leads enjoyed by Hillary Clinton in heavily Democratic Massachusetts.
"What's interesting is the speed at which, in Massachusetts, Obama has been able to close an unbridgeable gap," said Michael Goldman, a senior consultant at the Government Insight Group and a visiting professor at Tufts University, who has worked on state and national Democratic campaigns for 40 years. "I thought last week he'd do well here. Now I think he has a chance to win the thing."
The state's political establishment is split between the two candidates, and Goldman says Democratic voters are having an equally hard time deciding between the two.
"This is the first time when Massachusetts people have essentially a good choice and a better choice," he said. "Almost always, it's a bad choice and a worse choice. People are saying, 'I really like her, but I really like him, too.' "
A Rasmussen poll conducted hours after Obama won a coveted endorsement from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and his niece, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, showed Clinton leading Obama, 43 percent to 37 percent. But it was conducted before John Edwards dropped out, and a poll taken over the weekend by a television station and Suffolk University found Obama inching ahead of Clinton, 46 percent to 44 percent.
Obama quickly launched television ads in the state featuring Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy. Not to be out-Kennedyed, the Clinton campaign has been touting endorsements by three children of the late Robert F. Kennedy and running a television commercial featuring Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a New Yorker and environmental advocate.
Obama also has the backing of Gov. Deval Patrick, another fresh-faced African American who campaigned on similar themes of transcendence and change. Patrick, who made history when he won office two years ago, has a sophisticated statewide organization.
But it is unclear how far blessings from Patrick and the Kennedys will propel Obama in Massachusetts, where the economy is seen as the top issue by 51 percent of voters.
The state, which never recouped all the jobs it lost in the 2001 recession, is bracing for more troubles as another slowdown looms. Polls show that voters worried about the economy are lining up behind Clinton, who has support from Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, a streetwise politician with a strong following among blue-collar workers throughout Boston.
Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin reports that an unusually large number of absentee ballots -- 65,000 -- have been requested. Turnout may be affected by weather; snow is predicted.
The state's relatively small Republican Party is not expecting the same intensity it experienced during the last contest, in 2000. Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is comfortably ahead of McCain, 55 percent to 23 percent, according to a Rasmussen poll taken Jan. 28, and is considered a favorite son. Observers say independent voters, who can participate in either party primary and have embraced McCain more than Romney, could boost McCain's chances.
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