Politics: Scott Brown’s U.S. Senate Win

State Senator Scott Brown’s U.S. Senate win over Attorney General Martha Coakley stunned the nation, derailed Obama’s signature political initiative, and handed state Republicans their first major victory in decades. Here, a behind-the-scenes look at the final days of the historic campaign for Ted Kennedy’s seat.

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22
Martha Coakley’s campaign headquarters are in the former Schrafft’s candy factory in Charlestown, the six-story landmark that the Flatley Company purchased and renovated in 1984. It’s a beautiful building, but once past the pillared, marble-floored atrium, the corridors narrow and dim into ordinary office space.

Down one such hallway, behind a door to the right, the Coakley campaign office surprises. It is downright effervescent: The expansive area seems to be painted entirely in white, as if to match the campaign’s optimism.

Coakley staffers have every reason to be bright and cheery today. They’ve just conducted their own poll. Potential voters overwhelmingly approve of Coakley. They think she’s done a great job as Massachusetts attorney general. Admittedly, there is angst among independent voters — her lead seems to be narrowing there. But Coakley’s pollster, Celinda Lake, a longtime DC operative, still has her up 19 points against Scott Brown.

Campaign manager Kevin Conroy spends time considering these figures. He is smart, boyish-looking, with doleful eyes and great wisps of blond hair. This is Conroy’s first time running a campaign; before this he was a top deputy in Coakley’s AG’s office. His ties to Coakley are why she, and her veteran political strategist, Dennis Newman, chose Conroy for the job. He knows her, and she trusts him.

Conroy has a decision to make: whether to continue tracking voter sentiment through the holidays. He has the money to keep polling. The $937,000 in the campaign coffers is more than enough to gauge any shift in the mood of the populace. But Conroy, Newman, and Coakley would like to save as much of this money as possible for the advertising blitz that the campaign will demand, at the end. This strategy, running ads in the waning days before the election, was how Coakley won the Democratic primary on December 8.

Voters probably won’t pay attention to politics over the holidays anyway, Conroy thinks. This is in part the reason Coakley’s schedule will be light next week. (Between Christmas and New Year’s she’ll pencil in only two campaign stops, for an endorsement from New Bedford’s mayor on the 30th, and for the inauguration of Newton Mayor Setti Warren on January 1.)

Conroy decides Coakley has a large-enough lead against an unknown candidate whose party hasn’t been elected to a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts since 1972. Sure, support among independent voters seems to be slipping, but it’s not an overriding concern. Better to enjoy the season. From Conroy’s vantage point, it should be a merry Christmas — and a very happy new year.

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