Moreover, Senate races have historically been tight when the Republican candidate is moderate enough to appeal to centrist voters. Sen. John Kerry had close races against Ray Shamie in 1984, Jim Rappaport in 1990, and Bill Weld in 1996 – all of whom earned at least 40 percent of the vote.
Senator Kennedy saw his toughest challenge in 1994 against Mitt Romney, who would later be Massachusetts’ governor and an unsuccessful candidate for president. While Mr. Romney eventually shifted further to the right during his 2008 presidential bid, Massachusetts voters considered him a moderate Republican in his statewide campaigns. In fact, until 1993, Romney was registered as an independent.
For Coakley and Brown, it’s the state’s independents who will likely determine the outcome of the race.
“The majority of registered voters now are independents,” says David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Suffolk University in Boston, which conducted Thursday’s poll. “Despite the fact that they are people who say … they don’t want to be tied to one party, independents have emerged as the political party in Massachusetts now. It’s really about the independent voter.”
Suffolk’s poll shows 65 percent of voters who identify themselves as independent favor Brown.