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How Scott Brown is closing gap on Martha Coakley in Senate race

Scott Brown has used healthcare reform and homeland security to his advantage in Massachusetts. Martha Coakley’s campaign, meanwhile, has been widely criticized for complacency.

Republican candidate Scott Brown is shown shaking hands with employees while visiting the Zoll Medical Corporation in Chelmsford, Mass., Wednesday.

Charles Krupa / AP

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How is it possible that a Republican just might have a chance at a Senate seat in one of the bluest states in the US?

The Massachusetts special election on Jan. 19 to replace Sen. Edward Kennedy was supposed to be an easy win for Martha Coakley (D), Massachusetts’ attorney general. She’s run statewide campaigns before, has good name recognition with voters, and received the backing of Senator Kennedy’s wife and family.

In contrast, her challenger, state Sen. Scott Brown (R), is a previously little-known local politician in a state that has three Democrats for every Republican.

But Senator Brown has benefited from several factors – both inside the state and nationally. Among them: the healthcare-reform debate, the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner, and a lackluster campaign by Brown’s opponent. Add to that Democrats’ flagging support across the United States, and suddenly, Brown is the underdog candidate with a shot at the race.

Healthcare reform

Ms. Coakley and Brown are in direct opposition regarding the healthcare reform bill: While Coakley has pledged her support, Brown has promised to vote against it.

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