Election Day in Massachusetts

ELECTION DAY IN MASSACHUSETTS…. It’s a phrase you’ve read so many times over the last two weeks, you probably roll your eyes when you see it: special elections are notoriously hard to poll. A few months ago in New York’s 23rd, nearly all of the final polls showed Doug Hoffman leading. He ended up losing by three.

The “polls can be wrong” adage notwithstanding, when it comes to the statewide special election in Massachusetts today, every available piece of evidence points to Scott Brown (R) defeating Martha Coakley (D). In the seven statewide polls conducted since Thursday, Coakley doesn’t lead in any of them. What’s more, Suffolk surveyed three bellwether counties in Massachusetts over the weekend, and Brown’s leads ranged from 14 to 17 points.

Nate Silver presented his case late yesterday.

The FiveThirtyEight Senate Forecasting Model, which correctly predicted the outcome of all 35 Senate races in 2008, now regards Republican Scott Brown as a 74 percent favorite to win the Senate seat in Massachusetts on the basis of new polling from ARG, Research 2000 and InsiderAdvantage which show worsening numbers for Brown’s opponent, Martha Coakley. We have traditionally categorized races in which one side has between a 60 and 80 percent chance of winning as “leaning” toward that candidate, and so that is how we categorize this race now: Lean GOP. […]

Coakley’s odds are substantially worse than they appeared to be 24 hours ago, when there were fewer credible polls to evaluate and there appeared to be some chance that her numbers were bottoming out and perhaps reversing. However, the ARG and Research 2000 polls both show clear and recent trends against her. Indeed the model, which was optimized for regular rather than special elections, may be too slow to incorporate new information and may understate the magnitude of the trend toward Brown.

With another one of those eye-rolling adages that everyone is no doubt tired of seeing, Scott Rasmussen’s analysis noted, “[N]obody really knows who will win because it all comes down to turnout.”

It’s a cliche because it’s grounded in fact. And to be sure, surprises certainly happen. Maybe some of the enthusiasm surrounding Brown is from out-of-state right-wing activists. Maybe there’s a core group of smart voters focused on substance and issues who’ve been underrepresented in the polls. Maybe Democratic GOTV efforts will be more effective than anyone realizes.

But given what we know, it seems unlikely.