As a new poll showed Scott Brown with a double-digit lead yesterday, the Republican rallied in North Andover and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy's widow appeared in Lawrence to urge people to vote for Democrat Martha Coakley.
Suffolk University conducted a so-called "bellwether" poll on Saturday and Sunday, polling voters in Gardner, Fitchburg and Peabody because in the November 2006 race between Kennedy and Republican challenger Kenneth Chase, the results in those communities were within 1 percent of the actual results statewide.
Party registration there is similar to the rest of the state, adding to the belief that voters there can predict how candidates will fare elsewhere.
The results showed Brown beating Coakley by 15 percent in Gardner, 14 percent in Fitchburg and 17 percent in Peabody.
"Obviously, I think you've seen the polling trend going in the wrong direction if you're a Democrat," Methuen Mayor William Manzi, a staunch Democrat, said during an interview last night.
Brown stopped in North Andover about 2 p.m. on his campaign bus tour after greeting Boston Bruins fans at TD Garden.
Loren Carlson, 69, of North Andover happened to be eating lunch at Boston Chowda on Main Street when he saw buses pull into the parking lot at the First and Main Marketplace in downtown North Andover. He noted that the people he talked to were from outside North Andover — Georgetown, Concord and Boxborough.
Despite being a Republican, Carlson said he will vote for Coakley.
"We need health care reform and this is the one chance that we're going to have to get it," he said.
"It's so naive to say, 'Go back to the drawing boards,'" he said, referring to Brown's health care platform. "The political process only gives you one chance at this sort of thing."
Another person in Coakley's corner is Vicki Kennedy, the widow of the man whose senatorial seat Coakley and Brown are competing for. She was in Lawrence about noon to campaign for Coakley at the Mary Immaculate Nursing and Residential Center with Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua, who has endorsed the Democrat.
Brown, meanwhile, has emerged from underdog to contender to possible front-runner.
"He's done a good job of getting the message he wanted to get out there. On the flip side of that, is that the Coakley campaign did a less-effective job of getting that out midrace and allowed Brown to paint the picture," said Manzi, a mayor who has won three terms and often practices punditry on his blog, billmanzi.com.
So what do the Democrats need to do to hold onto Kennedy's former seat?
"The Democrats have a pretty big statistical advantage," the mayor said, referring to how Democrats traditionally outnumber Republicans in the Bay State. "They need to drag all their people out."
The potential problem that Democrats face is with the legions of unenrolled voters who aren't loyal to either party.
"The Democrats are losing those, looks like 3-1. Even with a big Democratic turnout, could make it difficult," Manzi said.
7 a.m. to 8 p.m., statewide
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