When I moved from DC to Amherst in August I was looking forward to the charm of a small New England college town and the relative affordability of housing (compared to prices inside the beltway, at least). But what I knew I'd miss the most was living at the center of the political universe. Well, for one day at least, I get to re-live the excitement as all eyes turn to the Bay State.
Warning: what follows is entirely un-scientific and is, accordingly, of little use to understand what might happen when the polls close tonight.
I've been surprised over the past few weeks at how much of a ground game Brown seems to have in Western Massachusetts compared to Coakely. Last weekend, I had to drive to nearby Belchertown for a swim meet and we passed countless yard signs for Brown as well as a small rally of Brown supporters. Not a single sign for Coakley. Today I had to travel to Boston for an appointment and I was 40 minutes into the drive before I saw my first Coakley sign.
Of course, once I got into Boston things changed quite a bit. Coakley signs were much more prominent and the handful of polling sites I passed were packed. This is consistent with what the news has been reporting regarding high turnout. But what was most interesting from my vantage point (and the vantage point of any pollster trying to determine who will and will not vote today) was a conversation I had with a young Democratic store clerk who, upon finding out that I was a political science professor, started complaining about how he ended up having to get up early today to go vote when he had been planning all along to skip this election. I've had similar conversations with a number of Democrats over the past few days; people who had no intention of voting a week ago, but now feel compelled to do so. These people are not at all excited about the Coakley campaign, but they suddenly feel as though they have to go out to vote in an election they were planning on skipping.
The interesting question, of course, is how would these voters be treated by a likely voter screen? And would response bias affect the propensity with which these types of voters would turn up in pre-election polls? It will be interesting to see how this plays out tonight. Like Mark, if forced to wager on the outcome, I'd have to put my money on Brown. But there is no way I'd want to put my money down on either candidate in an election like this one.
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