Republican Sen. Scott Brown should focus on the economy during the final stretch of his campaign to fend off Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren's rise in the polls: that's the main finding of this week's Red Commonwealth survey of influential Massachusetts Republicans.
Three polls by three separate polling organizations showing Warren ahead of Brown—but barely—were released early last week.
Further illustrating how tight the race has become, hours after Patch sent the survey out to Massachusetts Republicans, another poll by UMass Lowell and the Boston Herald showed Brown ahead of Warren by 6 points, with a 5.5 percent margin of error, after an UMass Lowell/Herald poll nine months ago had Warren leading by 7.
A majority of influential Massachusetts Republicans surveyed, 58.6 percent, said that Warren's reported rise in the polls is most likely attributable to a post-Democratic National Convention bump that energized Democrats and left-leaning independents, while a few questioned the validity of the polls themselves.
Those surveyed were split on the efficacy of Brown's get-out-the-vote organization compared to Warren's, with 34.5 percent saying it's "somewhat worse" than Warren's, 27.6 saying "no advantage for either," 13.8 percent saying "somewhat better" and 17.2 percent saying "much better."
Focus on Health Care with Seniors, the Economy with Women
Warren led Brown among voters 65 and older by 63-35 in the poll results released last week by Western New England University (WNEU)'s Polling Institute. Asked what they would recommend the Brown campaign do to increase support among seniors, many of the influential Massachusetts Republicans who responded to the survey said Brown should focus on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare, and Medicare.
"Drive home the point that Obamacare must be repealed in order to void the billions of dollars taken from Medicare in order to pay for Obamacare & that Brown—not Warren—will carry out that fight," one respondent wrote.
The WNEU poll also showed Brown leading Warren among men voters 49-44, while Warren led among women voters in the same poll 55-40. Asked which strategy Brown should focus on regarding the gender gap, 62.1 percent said that Brown should try to make gains among female voters.
Asked how Brown could win over more female voters, respondents said that the incumbent should push back against the 'War on Women' theme used by Warren's campaign and continue to define himself as "pro-choice," while many said that the senator should look past demographic issues and focus on the economy, jobs and tax policies that affect everyone equally.
"I am a woman, but I'm far more sophisticated, as most women are, to buy into belittling 'women's issues,'" one respondent wrote. "We, men and women, are concerned about the economic future of ourselves and our country. That unites all of us."
Economy Should Take Precedent
Asked what should be the primary issue that Brown should focus on during the final stretch of the campaign, a number of survey respondents said that Brown should go after Warren for her public image, which one respondent described as "an arrogant, lecturing, smarter-than-you college professor," and for her views described as "radicalism" and "extreme Leftist, anti-business."
However, most of the Mass. Republicans surveyed said that the economy should take precedent, with Brown contrasting his views with Warren's.
"We need jobs, we need to cut the size of government," one respondent wrote. "We need to get the deficit and debt under control. We need to stop demonizing job creators and investors. And we need lower taxes that will in turn produce economic growth and will result in an increase in revenues."
Brown and Warren had their first debate of four last week and almost all of the respondents leaned towards the debates deciding the race, with 62.1 somewhat agreeing it would be the deciding factor in the race and 31 percent strongly agreeing.
With regard to polling numbers, one respondent cautioned to view any results before the election with a skeptical eye.
"Keep in mind how the Boston Globe poll had Brown written off as a 15-point loser a week ahead of the special election in January 2010," the respondent wrote. "The only poll that really counts takes place on Nov. 6."
About the Red and Blue Commonwealth Survey
Our surveys are not a scientific, random sample of any larger population, but rather an effort to listen to a group of influential local Republican and Democratic activists, party leaders, candidates and elected officials in Massachusetts. All of these individuals have agreed to participate in Massachusetts’ Patch surveys, although not all responded to this story’s questions. Answers have been edited for style, but not for content.
Patch will be conducting Red Commonwealth and Blue Commonwealth surveys throughout the 2012 election season in hopes of determining the true sentiment of conservatives and progressives on the ground in Massachusetts. If you are an activist, party leader or elected official and would like to take part in periodic surveys that last just a few minutes, contact Associate Regional Editor Daniel DeMaina at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: This article is published across multiple Patch sites in the area.