MA-Sen: Kerry Gets Challenge from Mediocre House Candidate

Back in October, Republicans made a lot of hay about an unsuccessful congressional candidate who ran behind his party's 2006 gubernatorial nominee in a district carried by his party as recently as the 2002 Governor election and the 1992 presidential election. This was a Democratic special election candidate who failed to meet the rightful expectations for his candidacy, right? Wait, he was a Republican. And now he's gearing up to wage what will likely be another futile and underwhelming bid, this time a Senate campaign against John Kerry.

Republican Jim Ogonowski, who narrowly lost a congressional race to Niki Tsongas in October, is preparing to challenge U.S. Sen. John Kerry, The Associated Press has learned.

Ogonowski, the brother of an airline pilot killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said he's been attending Republican events around the state since his 6-point loss to Tsongas, a Democrat.

Think that Ogonowski ran an amazing race? The establishment media certainly came to that conclusion. But taking a look at the actual results, you see a different story. Nicki Tsongas, the Democratic nominee in the district, ran 3 points better in the district than did 2006 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Deval Patrick, who won statewide by more than 20 points. Ogonowski lost the district even as Mitt Romney had won it just five years earlier.

This is, of course, not to say that Kerry is not in need of support from his friends. If you want to get involved in his campaign, whether from inside or outside of Massachusetts, head over to today. At the same time, the Democrats need not worry too much about Ogonowski just yet.

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Tsongas' Win Not as Surprisingly Close as Some Believe

Yesterday Democrat Niki Tsongas won a special congressional election in a Massachusetts district that leans 11 points more Democratic than the nation as a whole in presidential elections, according to the Cook Partisan Voting Index. Her relatively narrow margin of victory -- 51 percent to 45 percent -- has led a number of Republicans to squawk about how this is a bad omen for the Democrats nationally, that it represents a repudiation of the Democratic Party, etc., etc. But does it? Not nearly as much as the Republicans would have you believe, as Marc Ambinder explains.

Well -- this isn't an elite liberal district, as anyone who ever worked for Marty Meehan can tell you. It is insular and provincial and distrusts outsiders; Tsongas lived outside the district before she ran. Though it has stayed in Democratic hands since the 70s, Tsongas still outperformed Gov. Deval Patrick here by two or three points; George H, W. Bush won this congressional district in 1992, as did Mitt Romney in 2002.

So the Republicans lost a district that they won in the 1992 presidential election and the 2002 gubernatorial election, and in which their 2006 gubernatorial nominee ran about a net 18-19 points better than she did statewide and they're calling it a success?

The fact that Patrick, who won statewide 56 percent to 35 percent in 2006, apparently only won the district by 2-3 points whereas Tsongas won the district by 6 points is extremely telling. I'm not shooting for a sense of false triumphalism here. Tsongas had higher name recognition and a lot more money than Jim Ogonowski, the Republican nominee. The American public still generally favors the Democrats to the Republicans. Tsongas simply should have won more handily. At the same time, Tsongas won by a wider margin in the district than Patrick did in his statewide blowout in 2006 -- a fact that seriously undercuts the notion that the Republicans are rebounding or that Ogonowski has figured out the key to success for the Republicans in 2008.

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MA-05: Results Thread -- Tsongas Wins

Polls closed at 8pm ET and results can be found HERE as they come in.

In less than stellar anecdotal news, Blue Mass Group reported light turnout in Democratic areas and "brisk" turnout in Republican areas.

Right now, with 3% reporting, Tsongas is ahead 59%-38%

Update [2007-10-16 20:59:8 by Todd Beeton]:BlueMassGroup is reporting quite a tight race (caveat: not sure of BMG's source):

With 137 of 196 precincts:

Tsongas 38,501

Ogonowski 36,395

If my math is correct, that's 51.4 to 48.6 with 70% reporting. Not good.

Update [2007-10-16 21:8:11 by Todd Beeton]: %'s holding steady with 75% reporting (per BMG.)

Update [2007-10-16 23:1:51 by Jonathan Singer]: The Associated Press has called the race, with Tsongas leading 51 percent to 46 percent with 86 percent of precincts reporting.

Update [2007-10-16 23:7:19 by Jonathan Singer]:The Lowell Sun has the final margin at 51 percent to 45 percent with every precint in.

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Blogs Are Media

The fallout from Blue Mass Group bloggers being asked to leave the TV studio of the MA-05 debate continues.  Last night Beat the Press did a story on the event, and dredged up the tired debate of whether or not bloggers are journalists in the process.

I've never understood why politicians fear bloggers, and why a blogger saying something negative about a politician is somehow worse than a columnist doing the same thing.  What boggles my mind though, is how some campaigns still don't see that barring people with different opinions makes them look far worse than anything a blogger could ever publish.

Blue Mass Group is a local media outlet with a sizable readership.  The majority of their readers are Tsongas supporters but as any local blogger knows Republican and Unaffiliated voters are checking in as well.  Local media markets often don't do a very good job of covering politics, and blogs, even when you might not agree with their perspective, are often the best resource people have when deciding who to vote for.  With that in mind it makes no sense to shut BMG out of any event.

Are bloggers journalists?  Is the question even relevant?  Bloggers are media and smart politicians appreciate any local media coverage.

MA-05: Niki Tsongas (D) Up By 9

Following up on my post from yesterday about how SCHIP might impact Tuesday's special election in MA-05, a new Survey USA poll (457 LVs, 10/8-10/10, MOE 4.7%) released last night shows that Niki Tsongas just can't seem to rise above 51% and is leading her Republican opponent by just 9%. While the results don't seem to have shifted much since September when Tsongas led Jim Ogonowski 51%-41%, the internals have actually changed quite a bit.

Among self-identified Independent voters, who make-up 39% of the electorate in SurveyUSA's turnout model, Ogonowski's advantage has grown from 7 points on 09/11 to 13 points today. The more Independents who turn out on Tuesday, the better Ogonowski does. Among self-described Moderates -- a group that often moves in harmony with Independent voters, but not in this contest -- Tsongas has gained 15 points. Conservatives are locked-in on Ogonowski; he leads by 71 points there. Liberals are locked-in on Tsongas; she leads by 76 points there. The Gender Gap has grown since SurveyUSA's last poll. Ogonowski today leads by 18 points among men. Tsongas leads by 37 points among women. Gender Gap had been 45 points, now 55 points.

Tsongas's rise among moderates and women certainly tracks with what we'd expect in the wake of Bush's SCHIP veto, which Tsongas has made a pillar of her campaign. But why Independents are flocking to the Republican, contrary to conventional wisdom about the strength of Democrats among Independent voters, is a question mark.

Is it due to a disproportionately large conservative block among the Independent voters in the district (self-ID Republicans are under 20% after all,) or is it, as Charlie Cook suggests, a function of disillusion with the Democrats in Congress or perhaps a backlash against "the perception of a revolving door between higher education and public office in the Bay State." (Former Rep. Marty Meehan left congress to become Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, while Tsongas has spent the last 10 years as Dean of External Affairs at Middlesex Community College.) Or it could be just good old fashioned advertising. In one ad, Ogonowski fashions himself an outsider determined to fix the "broken congress;" he also avoids mentioning his party affiliation in the ad. In another, Ogonowski uses the story of the death of his brother, who was the pilot of one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11, to reflect on his own character.

But regardless of the reason for Ogonowski's strength among Independents, it should serve as a warning sign to Democrats who think they can count on Independents to win next year. In MA-05 on Tuesday, it's clear that Tsongas must excite her base and turn out Democrats if she wants to increase her margin of victory, a good lesson for all Democrats running for congress to heed.

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