Massachusetts Senate Race: Election Day

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NOTE: I’ll be updating this post throughout the day.

I’ve been up here for only a day, but it’s hard to detect anything that looks good for Democratic nominee Martha Coakley, the state’s Attorney General.

Her election-eve rally at a gym in a Framingham middle school was three-quarters empty; someone on the campaign had pulled a curtain across the midpoint of the gym, so that it wouldn’t look even worse. (This “packed house” photo of the event by the campaign nothwithstanding.) The candidate came onstage to the “Rocky” theme–an extraordinary choice, given that she at one point had been sitting on a 30-point lead in some polls.

What worries long-time Democrats in the state even more, they tell me, are the other omens they are seeing–not just an accelerating deterioration in the polls, but also yard signs for her opponent, state Senator Scott Brown, in neighborhoods where they had never seen even a stirring of life for the GOP.

All that said, this is a special election, which makes it notoriously unpredictable–and unpollable. The national Democratic party is going full-stop with a get-out-the-vote operation that officials say rivals what they did in the swing states during the presidential contest. It is not out of the question that her party could still pull Coakley over the finish line.

Nonetheless, the recriminations have already begun. Washington blames Coakley, and the deficiencies both in her candidacy and her campaign. But she was not the only one who seemed asleep at the switch here; her defenders tell me that it had been difficult for her to raise money, because no one believed this was much of a race.

I’m convinced that a Democratic loss, if it happens, is a sign of something much larger than the failings of one candidate. In talking to Brown voters, you come away with a sense that this is more about Washington than anything else. Sure, Brown has been a terrific campaigner. But no one I talked to seemed particularly aware of any position he had taken–except that he would be the 41st vote in the Senate to stop the Obama agenda. “Right now, people just don’t want to hear anything the Democrats have to say,” one veteran strategist from the Kennedy operation told me. “They think there is a lot coming out of Washington, and none of it is for them.”

UPDATE: The view from Blue Hill Avenue.

8 a.m. UPDATE: Swampland commenters: I am going to try something that some of you have begged for in situations like this in the past. Instead of writing multiple posts, I am going to just update this one as the day goes on. That way, you too can continue your conversations in one place.

Unless circumstances (or the High Sheriffs) warrant something else…

Meanwhile, I’ve been checking around, and can’t find anyone doing exit polls. That means not only a long night is possible, but also, that we will not have as much data as we might like right away on who voted and why.

Also, you can keep an eye on the Boston weather (an important election day consideration) here. At the moment, there’s what one local weatherman is calling a “fine, steady snow.”

8:23 a.m. UPDATE: Yes, I know it’s early, but so far, my candidate for Most Audacious Spin of the Day is this from Organizing for America:

THE OBAMA MACHINE — A Democratic official says the DNC’s Organizing for America, at least, is a winner today: “It’s clear, win or lose, OFA has flexed the muscle of the president’s grassroots army. One of the primary reasons the race is even close going into Election Day is the work OFA has done which has brought much of the base home and increased Democratic participation according to polls by double digits. The lesson here is that an engaged Organizing for America can help put a campaign in a position to win. Whether a particular campaign has an infrastructure, the talent and the candidate to put it over the top is another story.” From Saturday through last night, OFA vols across the country made 1.2 million calls into Massachusetts on behalf of Coakley.

So what were they doing while Coakley was blowing a 30-point lead?

UPDATE 12:45 p.m.: Cartoonist Sage Stossel captures the feel of this place.

UPDATE 1 p.m.: Nasty weather. Special election. Should be a formula for low turnout. Instead, the Boston Globe tells us:

Light snow has not discouraged heavy traffic at polling places as more than 55,000 people cast ballots by noon in Boston, an early turnout more than double that of the primary last month. Other cities and towns experience similar waves of voters. Lines formed at a polling place in Somerville, and traffic backed up out Bates Elementary School in Wellesley, with cars spilling onto Elmwood Road.

UPDATE 1:28 p.m.: Turnout in the Boston suburbs looks like it could be huge. Democrats do not view that as a good sign.

UPDATE 3:30 p.m.: Random sighting: Scott Brown and entourage just got on the hotel elevator ahead of me.

UPDATE 3:37 p.m.: Also, people–including a guy dressed like Uncle Sam–are already gathering in the lobby.

UPDATE 3:52 p.m.: I’m heading out now to do “Hardball.” I’ll check back in here in a few hours.

UPDATE 6:02 p.m.: Pelosi, following leadership meeting:

Regardless of what happens in Massachusetts, we still have to resolve the difference between our two bills.

This does not sound like they are preparing to pass the Senate bill in the House.