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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

It now seems like eons (and millions of gallons of leaked oil) ago, but Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s vacant US Senate seat in Massachusetts remains one of the biggest political stories thus far in 2010. Brown’s win sent a chill down the spines of Washington Democrats, and was viewed as a possible signal that an avalanche of tea party-led victories would soon follow.

Five months later, how is Sen. Brown–who has made a lot of news during recent debates over financial regulatory reform–holding up politically?

Quite well, actually. A new Boston Globe poll out today shows his approval numbers are holding up fine. His approval number (55 percent) far exceeds his disapproval (18 percent); by compare, John Kerry, the state’s senior senator, has a much smaller disapproval/approval split (52 percent/37 percent), and President Obama is at 54 percent/41 percent.

The Globe points out the sole good news for Mass Democrats from the poll is that Massachusetts voters seem generally happy with their (all-Democratic) US House delegations: “Yet there’s one surprising consolation for Bay State Democrats who hope to defuse the voter backlash. When asked whether they will vote for a Democrat or Republican in their own congressional district in November, 42 percent of likely voters say they will vote for the Democrat and 27 percent will vote Republican.”

In the regulatory reform debate and negotiations, Brown has been able to exercise significant political leverage for the first time in his Senate career. Think Progress has a good summary of his actions during the legislative negotiations, further noting that Sen. Byrd’s death probably empowers him all the more. Despite his strong early numbers, Brown will need some bragging points when he comes up for election to a full, six-year term. But for now at least, he looks like a candidate who will give Democrats all they can handle in 2012.

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