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Brown and Coakley debate (AP/Photo by Steven Senne)

Battleground state?

Politics | The liberal stronghold of Massachusetts watches an increasingly tightening race to fill the late Sen. Edward Kennedy's seat

Since the release of polls several days ago showed a tighter race than expected in Massachusetts for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the late Edward Kennedy, national attention has turned to watch the drama unfolding between the favorite, Democrat Martha Coakley, and the underdog, Republican Scott Brown.

According to a Boston Globe poll, Coakley, the state's attorney general, has a 15-point lead, with 9 percent undecided and a 4 percent margin of error. But according to a more recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling, Brown, a Massachusetts state senator, is up by 1 percent, with 6 percent undecided and a 4 percent margin of error.

With the election approaching next Tuesday and Coakley appearing to be losing momentum, Democrats have poured money into a race they thought would be an easy win. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Tuesday invested $600,000 in the contest, while Massachusetts other U.S. senator, John Kerry, sent a fundraising plea on the DSCC's behalf, calling the race a "dead heat." New ads from Coakley portray Brown as being from a long line of Washington Republicans, while he has tried to paint himself as outside the political machinery.

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Meanwhile, Brown raised $1.1 million in 24 hours Monday, and groups like the American Future Fund have spent their own money supporting him in ad campaigns. But Brown has said publicly numerous times that he doesn't want help from "outsiders."

Republicans are calling Brown the 41st vote, or someone who could break the Democratic supermajority and derail healthcare reform. Democrats are calling Coakley the 60th vote, and she has said she would support the healthcare bill, as long as it looked similar to the Senate version. She would not support a bill with the Stupak amendment restricting federal funding of abortion attached.

Monday night, Coakley and Brown met for a debate. The moderator asked whether Brown would vote against the healthcare bill based on how long it could be before reform might be possible again: "Are you willing under those circumstances to say, 'I'm going to be the person, I'm going to sit in Ted Kennedy's seat, and I'm going to be the person who's going to block it for another 15 years'?"

Brown responded, "With all due respect, it's not the Kennedy seat and it's not the Democrat's seat, it's the people's seat."

Those kind of populist lines, appealing to voters that want to change the status quo, have made this a more competitive race than anyone expected. Brown has also gained a stronger following online-through Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook-than his opponent. Coakley is still favored to win in a state that remains strongly liberal, but in a special election, voter turnout is usually low and unpredictable. Independent voters have been polling well for Brown, too, a demographic that President Obama won in the 2008 election.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emzleb.

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