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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

For a moment let’s put aside all the confused buzz about the poll numbers in Massachusetts’ Senate special election race–Nate has already written about that here–to discuss the big development of the closing week: The emergence of Ted Kennedy’s widow Vicki.

MSNBC’s “First Read”–the network’s online morning political hotsheet–reports that Kennedy will cut an ad on behalf of Democratic nominee Martha Coakley. A fundraising letter sent out in Vicki Kennedy’s name has already raised more than a half-million dollars for Coakley, which means Kennedy is not only starring in the TV ad but effectively has paid for the air time. Presumably the ad’s message will echo the overall message of Mrs. Kennedy’s endorsement, namely, that Coakley is the right candidate to properly honor her late husband’s legacy and carry forward his agenda.

Kennedy’s “we need Martha, we want Martha” endorsement speech a week ago, above (start around 2:40 mark), was clearly what one would expect from such a speech, and what the campaign needed. What’s less clear is whether Vicki’s emergence was planned all along. After all, it makes perfect sense to do the “roll out”–to use the common campaign term, though I hesitate to invoke in regard to a recently widowed woman–of an endorsement and ad during during the election’s late stages, as voters start thinking about their decision. And maybe that was the plan from the jump.

However, just last week Coakley said she thought it would be impossible for Kennedy to make an ad for her so late in the campaign. Why? the time it takes to cut an ad isn’t much more than it is to turn out in public to make an endorsing speech. Which suggests the campaign perhaps did not plan to utilize Kennedy, or make the necessary overture, until operatives or Coakley herself realized they needed a Kennedy boost. Alternatively, maybe the campaign or Coakley wasn’t fully confident that they could ask and receive from Kennedy a commitment to make the ad? I dunno. I realize the time between the special primary election and general election was just six weeks, but that was still ample time to secure the commitment and then make the logistical arrangements for a Kennedy endorsement speech and ad, if that was in fact the plan from the very beginning.

Whatever the backroom negotiations–or hesitations–what’s clear is that the Coakley team realized she needed a booster shot. As I wrote previously, the timing and scheduling of this race couldn’t be more favorable for the Republicans and Scott Brown: i.e., a special election in off-year cycle for a federal office when Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress, and conservatives and Republicans from around the country have the luxury of focusing solely on what would inarguably be a major trophy win if they bagged Ted Kennedy’s former seat.

So it’s the smart, safe bet to bring Vicki forward, even if there will surely be some voters turned off by it. (Though I suspect most of them were not inclined to vote for a Democrat anyway.) Why the entire roll out wasn’t planned a bit better–endorsement, fundraising letter, ad–is a bit puzzling.

Relatedly, MA Rep. Jim McGovern and former president Bill Clinton will join Coakley at a campaign rally at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester tomorrow afternoon. All stops are being pulled out.

Meanwhile, Brown is having a bit of trouble of his own. He denied to reporters that he knew about the Tea Party movement, even though Tea Partiers hosted a fundraiser for him. Though the fundraiser was listed on Brown’s campaign website, it does not appear that he attended, so I suppose it’s possible he’s unaware of the Tea Partiers who, if they really wanted to help him, ought to hold a phony, wink-and-a-nod public demonstration opposing Brown for being insufficiently conservative. UPDATE: With hat tip to a 538 commenter below, DKos’ Jed Lewison wrote a post earlier today with video of Brown at a Tea Party rally last April.

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