With the clock ticking inexorably towards Tuesday's election and a new poll showing them in a dead heat, Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown are crisscrossing the state today in a last-minute scramble for votes in a race that has drawn national attention.
Coakley, after stops in Newton and Pittsfield, swung into Springfield to rally supporters for one final stop in Western Massachusetts. As she walked into the Teamsters Local 404 hall, they shouted "Martha! Martha! Martha!"
"You can see the energy," Coakley said as she shook hands on the way in. "People can see it's a race."
Coakley ended the day in Framingham, before swinging by a phone bank and then gathering with staff and supporters at the Eire Pub in Dorchester.
Brown was in Boston, North Andover, and Littleton, and wrapped up his day with a rally in his hometown of Wrentham, where the Republican candidate took to the stage at a banquet hall as speakers blared "Start Me Up" by the Rolling Stones.
Brown thanked energetic backers for their support and urged them to keep working through the end of the election. "Do not stop working until tomorrow night," he said.
Pat Barrett, a 74-year-old grandmother of three, donned an American flag jacket and sparkly silver, blue, and red hat covered with Brown stickers.
"I'm voting for Scott to save this country for my grandkids," said Barrett, of Norwood.
The new poll, done for the liberal Daily Kos blog by Research 2000, found Brown and Coakley tied, 48-48. The telephone poll of 500 randomly selected voters was conducted Friday through Sunday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
Other polls have suggested that Brown, until recently a little-known state senator, is tied or slightly ahead of Coakley, the state's attorney general.
Brown has promised to be the 41st vote against President Obama's health care reform plan, while Coakley has pledged to be the 60th vote for it. The surge by Brown has been so alarming to Democrats that President Obama put his political capital on the line to visit the state Sunday, telling voters he needed leaders like Coakley by his side to move his agenda forward.
Both Coakley and Brown began their day at the annual breakfast in Boston honoring the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
With more than 1,000 people in attendance at the Hynes Convention Center, Coakley entered the room to a light smattering of applause and took her place at the head table. Brown arrived a bit later and quietly took his seat at a table on the main floor.
A bit later, the two candidates took the opportunity to do some 11th-hour glad-handing, chatting with attendees and posing for pictures. Coakley went from table to table through a sea of television cameras and promised to "work the vote" until the last minute.
"We're going to see this through," Coakley, the state's attorney general, told one guest.Coakley, in her remarks at the breakfast, linked her candidacy to the legacy of King and Edward M. Kennedy. "If you send me to the Senate, I will be guided by those values," she said. "It's not about me anymore. It never was. It's what Martin Luther King stood for. It's what Ted Kennedy stood for."
She said King would have been on the "front lines" fighting for health care "not as a privilege but as a right, as Senator Kennedy often said."
And in a veiled criticism of Brown, Coakley said she understood that "people are frustrated and angry," but said there were no "easy answer to the tough questions."
Brown did not speak from the dais. When not circulating in the room between speakers, he sat near the back, at Table 85. He was a guest of Jane C. Edmonds, a former chair of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, who called herself ''a Brown Democrat.''
Brown stuck around for a talk by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino in which he urged the crowd to vote Tuesday to continue Obama's agenda. Brown left, followed by a horde of TV cameras, before King's son, Martin Luther King III, told the crowd to do the same thing. "The eyes of the nation are watching Massachusetts,'' King said.
After leaving the breakfast, Brown blasted Coakley for using her appearance for "politicking."
"I didn't realize that this was a rally for Martha. And I thought it was inappropriate that she started asking for votes," Brown told reporters, according to State House News Service.
The seat opened up with the death last year of Edward M. Kennedy, the liberal lion of the Senate, who had served for 47 years. The race is drawing national attention because Brown would become the 41st Republican in the Senate and give the party the filibuster power it needs to derail the president's health care overhaul. Democrats in Washington are already discussing how to pass the health care bill even if Brown is elected, the Globe reports today.
Indepdendent candidate Joseph L. Kennedy, who is no relation to the famous Kennedy clan, is also in the race, but has gained minimal support.
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