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Scott Brown is playing offense, while Martha Coakley is on defense.
The energy on Coakley's campaign is on the stage. At the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Dorchester Saturday, Edward M. Kennedy's widow, Vicki, tried to encourage the union troops.
"Teddy always told me that when you're in a fight, there's nobody like organized labor to have on your side," Kennedy said. "Nobody!"
But state Rep. Marty Walsh, of Dorchester, gave the audience of Coakley volunteers a reality check. "Make sure today that we go out and tell our friends, 'cause I have a lot of friends out there that are talking about voting the other way for whatever reason," Walsh said.
Bonnie Harlow, who was waiting for Brown at strip mall in Plymouth, had plenty of reasons.
"He wants to send the health care bill back to have it redone and have it open for discussion," she said. "He wants to eliminate the terrorists getting equal rights as citizens and getting lawyers that are paid for with our tax dollars. He wants less spending and he wants smaller government, and all of that makes sense to me. And he's a real person, and he's listening to us, and I don't feel like anybody else is."
Harlow has never gotten involved in a political campaign before.
Brown supporters held up signs, and shoppers driving by blew their horns and gave the thumbs-up sign.
The energy at Coakley events is on stage, but the energy in Brown's campaign is in the audience. Everywhere he goes, big crowds are out to meet him. They are the curious, the disaffected, the newly converted and the die-hards. People such as Steven Holland, from Pembroke, who is upset at the deals made to get health care reform through Congress.
"It's outrageous that we're subsidizing the insurance of the people of Nebraska, the people in Louisiana, the state workers and the union workers," Holland said.
At his campaign office in Plymouth, Brown complained to volunteers about an ad that Coakley is running saying he supported turning rape victims away from hospitals.
"The fact that she would even insinuate that I do not care if a woman gets raped that she can't get the services she provides," Brown said. "To be honest with you, my daughters are so upset that they decided to get involved to a point where they actually did a commercial."
Brown sponsored a proposal that would have allowed hospital personnel with religious objections to refuse emergency contraception to patients. The measure failed and, in the end, he voted to require that hospitals provide the contraceptives.
The ads turned Debbie Scanlon off. She was going to vote for Coakley, but not anymore. "I don't like that kind of politics, Scanlon said. "I don't. And that's all I had to hear was those negative ads, and I'm down here to see what Scott can do."
Scanlon was waiting in the twilight for Brown outside the Flat Iron Café, in Middleborough. Initially, Brown was going to hold a little gathering inside the café, but it the crowd overflowed out the doors, and he had had to hold a rally at the gas station across the street.
In Gloucester, Jay Somers thought the barrage of ads is actually energizing Coakley supporters like him. "It was a sleepy little race up until about two weeks ago and suddenly people are turning on their TV sets, seeing ads," Somers said.
Somers was in a subdued, small group of people waiting for Coakley on the waterfront. Coakley urged the crowd to get their friends out tomorrow.
"It is not a given," Coakley said. "It is a race. There's no question about it. We are not taking any vote for granted and neither should you, because it's too easy for people who are angry, who think there's easy solutions, to take it out on people who actually are here to try and solve these problems."
The biggest crowd of the weekend by far was the one trying to get in to see President Obama stump for Coakley at Northeastern University. Only 1,500 people made it inside. They heard the president question Brown's claim that he will be an independent voice in Washington. Mr. Obama used the pickup truck Brown drives and talks about to make his point.
"You've got to look under the hood, because what you learn makes you wonder," the president said. "If, as a legislator, he voted with the Republicans 96 percent of the time, 96 percent of the time, it's hard to suggest that he's going to be significantly independent from the Republican agenda."
Brown, too, had stars on stage: Doug Flutie and Curt Schilling turned out at a rally for him in Worcester. The crowds Brown drew wherever he went this weekend showed that he has the enthusiasm on his side.
On Tuesday, he'll find out whether that enthusiasm is enough to make him the stumbling block to the president's agenda that he has promised to be.
This program aired on January 18, 2010.
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