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Walsh: Democrats ready for (another) Senate fight

Date: 11/19/2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD — With political observers debating what might be next for the Bay State with the rumors of possible appointments of Sen. John Kerry and Gov. Deval Patrick to cabinet positions in the Obama Administration, John Walsh, the chair of the state's Democratic Committee, said with a smile that "everyone's opinion is as good as any other."

He added, "I don't have any inside track. If I did I couldn't tell you. It would ruin the fun."

Walsh spoke to Reminder Publications prior to the quarterly party meeting, which was being conducted in the city. While Walsh couldn't predict what might happen, he did say that, regardless of the recent election cycle, the state's Democrats are "absolutely ready for a Senate fight."

He believes the election of Elizabeth Warren to the Senate shows "the Democrats have reinvigorated a type of politics people like better."

He is speaking of a grassroots, door-knocking style of campaigning that resulted in "friend-to-friend conversations."

If Kerry leaves the Senate, Walsh said that Sen. Scott Brown might seem to have an advantage, however, Walsh maintained the tone of Brown's campaign against Warren affected his amiable image.

"He cashed in a big chunk of his nice guy chips," Walsh said. "He is in a different place with voters."

Walsh said there is a possibility of former Gov. William Weld — now living in New York — re-emerging as a candidate for the Senate. According to the Secretary of State's website, a candidate for the Senate must only be a resident of the state when he or she is elected.

If a Senate race materializes, Walsh said the Democrats have a "huge list" of people who could run for the seat.

If there is a race, Walsh doesn't anticipate a repeat of the record-level of spending the Brown-Warren contest. He said that both candidates were "very good at energizing their bases" and added that much of Warren's campaign contributions came in at less than $50, while Brown had the support of Wall Street.

"The good news is small money beat the big money this time," he said.

With the cost of the race reported at more than $68 million, Walsh said he hoped that kind of spending would be "hopefully an aberration."

He believes that kind of spending "comes to a point of diminishing returns."

While social media had an impact, Walsh believes that more old-fashioned means of campaigning had more impact. He noted that volunteers knocked on one million doors during the campaign with 240,000 of them during the last weekend. Un-enrolled and undecided voters were the targets of the effort.

Walsh acknowledged that robocalls are "cheap and quick," with an average price of between 3 and 5 cents per call, in the era of caller identification, many voters ignore them.

Polling has also been affected with the advent of cell phones that in many cases supplant a traditional landline — how pollsters traditionally reach their samples — Walsh said. He explained many interviews have to be conducted to get the right mix of age, gender and race of potential voters.

He believes that polls can be used to determine trends, but not to predict results.

"Candidates who use polls to determine what to say — that's when you know you're in trouble," Walsh said.