Scott Brown for Senate: It’s About Turnout!

A Suffolk University Poll on November 11 showed the following numbers:

Martha 44%, Pags = Jobs 17%, Cappy 16%, K-Z 3%, Und. 20%

Senator Scott Brown 45%, Jack E. 7%, Und. 48%

The actual primary results showed something a bit different.

Martha 47%, Pags = Jobs 12%, Cappy 28%, K-Z 13%

Senator Scott Brown 89%, Jack E. 11%

The turnout numbers in a normal election are very different from the turnout numbers in a special election.  Special elections have significantly lower turnout that is mostly driven by the campaigns.  The people who choose to vote are the ones most interested in, and most educated about, the election.  Because of the higher level of interest and education these voters are more easily effected by grass roots direct contact and less so by mass media and big money.

On the Democrat side, Pagliuca was in second place in the overall poll beating Khazei by a nearly 6 to 1 margin.  Pagliuca spent tons of money on mass media while the little known Khazei spent virtually none gaining most of his support in his ground game.  When the votes were finally tallied Khazei finished narrowly ahead of Pagliuca.

The other out performer was Capuano.  He had more organizational support from his fellow congressmen and the unions.  His turnout operation allowed him to significantly close the overall gap with Coakley when the votes were cast.

On the Republican side, Jack E. Robinson bought radio ads and had an aggressive direct mail campaign.  Scott Brown spent virtually no money on media while volunteers spent time doing phone banks. Brown won a landslide victory that exceeded even the polls.  On both sides of the isle, the ground game defeated the air game with tremendous success.


Special elections are not played the same way as regular elections.  The name of the game is TURNOUT!  YankeePundit discussed this in more detail on another thread.

Take a look at some of these turnout numbers for Scott Brown in the Primary:

Attleboro 1,525

Barnstable 2,433

Chelmsford 1,638

Needham 2,038

Springfield 836

Fall River 457

Somerville 454

Cambridge 426

Yes, the larger cities are Democratic strongholds.  However, it is very unusual for any candidate to have more votes from Barnstable than Springfield, Fall River, Somerville and Cambridge combined.  These abnormalities are a direct result of where the Brown campaign was able to drive out votes.  Barnstable is not in Scott Brown’s district.

Comparisons to Ogonowski:

There are some interesting parallel’s between Scott Brown’s US Senate campaign and Jim Ogonowski’s congressional campaign 2 years ago.  Both are open seats and special elections.  Both have a unified Republican Party.  Brown and Ogonoski both received exactly 89% of the vote in their primaries.  The Democrat nominees each received under 50% of the vote and both are women.  

Both had 3rd party candidates with minimal support.  The 2007 candidates included Constitution Party candidate Kevin Thompson, Independent turned Republican Kurt Hayes, and Independent Patrick Murphy.  They combined for around 4% of the vote and I believe these candidates hurt Jim Ogonowski’s chances.  In 2009 an independent (but really Libertarian) named Joe Kennedy is on the ballot.  His impact on the race has yet to be determined.

In the 2007 MA-5 special the Democrat primary had 55,517 votes cast versus 13,493 in the Republican primary for a 4.11 to 1 ratio of ballots cast.  In the 2009 US Senate race the Democrat primary had 664,795 votes cast versus 162,706 in the Republican primary for a 4.08 to 1 ratio of ballots cast.  Those numbers are similar.

The primary turnout in the US Senate primary was 11.99 times the turnout of the 2007 congressional primary.  In 2007, 105,883 people voted in the general.  If the general election turnout is also 12 times as large 1,268,938 will vote and 634,469 vote will be a majority.  There are 490,269 registered Republicans in Massachusetts.  At just 31%, Jeff Beatty received 922,727 votes in 2008.

Ultimately Niki Tsongas defeated Jim Ogonowski 51% to 45%.  Her margin of victory was slightly smaller than polling indicated.

About Mike "DD4RP" Rossettie

  • Vote3rdpartynow

    Turnout will be the single largest problem for Scott Brown to win this race.  

    I think enough people see Martha Coakley as another hack insider just trying to make a name for herself that they could be convinced to vote against her.  But will they actually vote?  

  • Another way of thinking about the Coakley/Brown race is to look at the ratio of the general vote total of the general D/R candidate to the primary vote totals by party.  The idea being what is the turnout propensity of voters of different parties.  

    I think that these two races are good parallels since Ogo’s opponent (Tierney) and Brown’s opponent (Robinson) were perpetual candidates with no support in their party.  Indeed, Tierney had run as a Dem and I could identify no positions that Mr. Tierney held that were consistent with standard Republican dogma.  Also, in both 2009 and 2007 the Dem primary received all the attention and the money, the GOP primaries pretty quiet.  

    On with the numbers.

    In the general, Tsongas received 54,363 votes which is actually somewhat smaller than the total that voted in the 55,517 that voted in the Dem primary.  That means that the Dem vote total for the special was maxed out by the primary.  Let’s say that happens again and we give Coakley all of the Dem primary voters.  That’s 664,795 votes.

    Let’s give Brown the ratio of GOP general to GOP primary voters in the 2007 special.  Ogo got 47,7140 in the general and there were 13,493 voters in the GOP primary.  That gives Brown 162,706 x (47,710 / 13,493) = 575,313 votes.

    That gives us Coakley 53.6 % and Brown 46.4 %.  So Brown is still the underdog but not out of it by any means.

  • The Brown campaign did spend a good deal of money for radio ads that were played on RKO, WEEI, WBZ, 96.9 and other stations. They have expenditures of over $200K for the campaign. All of it is in effort of getting his name out there. They hardly have enough money for this fight. Their fundraising team has been sub-par and the shape of the economy hasn’t helped either. They only have roughly a little over $200k left to pay staff salaries, purchase signs, bumper stickers, rent, and normal office expenses. That doesn’t include additional radio and TV ads which they will have to do. Their initial goal was to raise over $1 million by the end of this, but they won’t come close to that.

    Pags may have outspent everyone and lost, but he lost to those who spent close to $2 million.

  • Striker57

    if no one votes a Republican has a chance. Very sad.