In any other campaign it would be a completely unremarkable appearance: a candidate working a room, shaking numerous hands and asking for votes, and delivering brief remarks.
But this is something Martha Coakley hasn’t done regularly in an abbreviated special election for US Senate that has caused the candidates to focus more on ground operations and phone calls than the retail politics that typically mark competitive statewide races.
"Good morning! I'm asking for your vote," the Democratic attorney general said to one person today at the Kit Clark Senior Center in Dorchester, as Coakley aides passed out munchkins from Dunkin’ Donuts.
“You have my vote, don't worry,” came the reply.
“You are the sweetest woman in the world,” one man told her as Coakley smiled and moved toward the microphones.
The US Senate race today continued into its final days, with many of the developments being dictated by outside interests pouring money into the race rather than anything being done by the candidates themselves, each of whom only held one public event.
Republican State Senator Scott Brown toured a medical device company in Chelmsford, using the event to again blast Democratic efforts to overhaul health care and tamp down Democratic efforts to paint him as a Republican in lock-step with the national GOP.
"The allegation that I vote 96 percent of the time with Republicans is inaccurate, but I’m proud of the fact that I’ve stood up against out-of-control spending and taxation in Massachusetts,” he said.
He also claimed that he was unfamiliar with the “Tea Party movement,” when asked by a reporter. When told that different people labeled him a conservative, moderate and a liberal Republican, he responded “I’m a Scott Brown Republican.”
Coakley was forced to respond to a controversy over the physically aggressive way a reporter was treated in Washington by a Democratic operative following a fundraiser she held on Tuesday night.
"There were people following, including people from the Brown campaign who have been very aggressive in their stalking," Coakley said today. "I’m not sure what happened. I know something occurred but I’m not privy to the facts. I’m sure it will come out.”
“I do know that the Scott Brown stalkers who have followed me around, and the people at that press conference who were for very, I think, right-leaning publications were incredibly aggressive about trying to get in my face," she added.
Coakley, of course, was the only candidate in the Democratic primary who regularly used trackers, sending campaign aides to her opponents' events to videotape everything they said.
"It's something that good, organized campaigns do," Coakley told the Globe in October.
In an interview this afternoon, Coakley declined to respond to calls from the Massachusetts Republican Party for her to immediately dismiss the aide, Michael Meehan.
"I think it’s Republican tactics as usual to make much out of nothing," said Coakley, who got a boost today from an endorsement by several newspapers, including The Boston Globe.
The race has taken a bitter tone, with Coakley trying to paint Brown as a Republican who would damage women’s rights, take privileges away from seniors, and quash health care reform.
Brown’s response has been to criticize Coakley for negativity, and today he released new ads featuring his daughters as national Democrats tried to paint him as a right-wing Republican who is out of touch.
“It’s disappointing that Martha Coakley is attempting to deceive voters with her demonstrably false statements on my health care record,” Brown said this afternoon in a statement. “We have sharply different views on the health care bill in Washington.”
In an interview, Coakley said it was Brown who has been leveling the unfair attacks.
“We didn’t start anything negative,” she said. “But I’m not going to sit back and not respond. His campaign is the one that has begun – both as he did on thee stump and in debates – attacking me. I’ve been positive, I’ll stay positive, but I’m not going to not respond.”
Democrats have become seriously concerned about the prospects of losing the seat formerly occupied by Edward M. Kennedy, who for decades was the face of the Democratic Party.
It would be a startling upset – a Republican hasn’t won a US Senate election in Massachusetts since 1972 -- and would derail the Democrats plans for health care reform in Washington.
Fundraising appeals also began pouring in today from MoveOn.org, a liberal political action committee, and from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Kennedy’s widow, Vicki, also sent out a letter to supporters.
“Everything is on the line,” she wrote. “The people of Massachusetts will decide who will be their next senator, and we need Martha Coakley.”
Some Massachusetts Democrats have also been calling for President Obama to come to Massachusetts and campaign for Coakley this weekend, although her campaign has remained mum over the possibility.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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