(CNN) - President Barack Obama prepared to head for Massachusetts on Sunday to campaign for the Democratic candidate in a surprisingly close Senate race to fill the seat of longtime liberal lion Ted Kennedy.
Republican state Sen. Scott Brown has surged in recent weeks to catch Democratic state Attorney General Martha Coakley, worrying Obama and Democrats about the possibility of losing what once was considered among their safest seats in the nation.
A GOP victory in the overwhelmingly Democratic state could give Senate Republicans enough votes to block Obama's health care plan. It could also shatter assumptions about the competitiveness of politics in the progressive northeast.
No Republican has a won a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts since 1972. The state's entire congressional delegation is Democratic. Obama beat Sen. John McCain in Massachusetts last year's presidential race by 26 points.
Kennedy - an advocate for liberal health care reform throughout his career - held his seat for over 46 years. His brother, President John F. Kennedy, held it for another eight before then.
The Tuesday special election will decide who holds the seat for the rest of Kennedy's term. Democrat Paul Kirk, a long-time adviser and friend to Kennedy, has served as interim replacement since shortly after Kennedy, 77, died of brain cancer in August.
A Suffolk University/7 News poll released Thursday night indicated that 50 percent of likely voters backed Brown, compared to 46 percent support for Coakley. Another 3 percent of people questioned back Joseph Kennedy, a third party candidate running as a libertarian who is not related to the late senator. The poll's sampling error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
Two well-respected non-partisan national political analysts, Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg, have rated the race a tossup.
That is good news for Republicans, who are calling the race a referendum on a national health care bill being pushed through Congress by Obama and Democratic leaders.
If Brown pulls an upset and defeats Coakley, the Democrats will lose their 60-seat filibuster-proof coalition in the Senate. The shift could severely threaten the party's priorities on health care and a range of other issues. Brown has promised to vote against the health care bill if elected.
"It's extremely close in the most liberal, the bluest state in America," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said on "FOX News Sunday."
Even if Coakley wins to allow the Democrats to pass the health care bill with their 60-seat filibuster proof Senate majority, the close race shows that most Americans dislike the legislation and want to see it defeated, McConnell said.
"I think the politics are toxic for the government either way," McConnell said of the health care bill. "Either way, whether it passes or it fails, it will be a huge issue not just in 2010 but in 2012."
Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin, a Democrat, said this week that certifying Tuesday's election results could take more than two weeks - potentially enough time to allow congressional Democrats time to pass a final health care bill before Brown is seated.
Republicans blasted the timetable, accusing Democrats of trying to stifle the will of the voters. On Sunday, McConnell refused to speculate on a timetable, saying the election winner should be properly sworn in to reflect the will of the people.
"I'm sure all the lawyers will be looking at this," McConnell said.
Both the Coakley and Brown campaigns have raised large sums of cash in the past week and combined have spent well over a $1 million on television commercials. National party organizations as well as independent groups have also flooded the airwaves in the typically politically uncompetitive Massachusetts.
Former President Bill Clinton held rallies for Coakley on Friday, while former New York City mayor and 2008 GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani has teamed up with Brown.
On Thursday, Obama put out an e-mail and Web video in support of Coakley. The e-mail was sent to the Massachusetts distribution list of Organizing for America, the president's political arm at the Democratic National Committee.
Vicki Kennedy, the late senator's widow, also is making a pitch for Coakley in a new television campaign commercial that started airing Friday.
–CNN's Paul Steinhauser, Alan Silverleib and Tom Cohen contributed to this report.
Failed to get the Olympics when he flew to Copenhagen
Failed on climate control when he flew to the meeting
Failed when he flew to New Jersey for the Governors' race
Failed when Dems. lost the governor's race in Virginia
Failed yesterday to get sanctions on Iran to stop their nuclear program
he should stay in the White House and watch TV.
Obama 's healthcare is the reason she is losing. Taxing middle class insurance premiums is the main reason. Democrats should honestly look at why this is close in a Democrat State. It's not too late to remove this out of the bill and save the Democratic Party.
Vote for Coakley.
He is the kiss of death to whatever he touches.
Vote for Coakley. A Republican win sets this country back to where it was at the end of 2008 – on the brink of financial destruction and the near extinction of the working classes.
I think it is VERY important to keep reminding the public how the country got to where we are. It's not about blaming Bush but reminding us that the republicans FAILED miserably over the last 8 years. Why would want to go back to that???
Didn't we have a deficit surplus when Clinton left office?
Didn't we have an economy in recovery after the devastation of Bush Sr?
And where are those weapons of mass destruction Bush jr promised to find?
Fear not , for ACORN and the Panthers have been sent ! Fraud will prevail for the Dem"s, AGAIN
Scott Brown can be part of the welcoming party for the new congress in a year that reverses and deletes all of Obama's socialist rules, laws and czars.
Welcome back, America!
The dem will win if ACORN has anything to do with it.
Because it worked so well in Virginia and New Jersey.
The health bill isnt perfecgt, but it's a start. It will be refined. I just heard a few days ago that when FDR passed Social Security, it was not perfect, but they went back and correct it.
A vote for the elephant = a vote to stay in the stone age era = a vote for Scrooges = nothing for U = U saw it the last 8 years = Do U really want to keep sliding backward?
Be patient. Thomas Edison tried 1000 times to create the light bulb. And you know what? He lighted the world with it.
We're better off putting more donkeys in Congress, with donkeys, YOU CAN SHOUT and SCREAM and eventually, they WILL hear U.
With ELEPHANTS, just remember the last 8 years.
We had 9-11 that crushed our economy but Bush and the repubs brought it back , 4.5 % unem . 14,000 stock , The Nancy and Reid took over . $4 gas stocks drop Dodd and Frank's saying Fannie and Freddie are solid . I hate to say it but I'll take Bush back!
Why didn't the Socialists send Hillary? I hear that his week she's a life-long Red Sox fan.
Just say "no" to Obamacare!
To Obama has failed wherever he has shown up....
Success is how high you bounce, when you hit the bottom (George S Patton)
With Obama, he has LUCK, for every door shut in his face, a NEW BETTER opportunity opens up for him.
If anyone has the patience to put up with a CRAZY society like us, it will have to be Obama. If we just give him a chance, there will be a better Americda.
He's only GOING to get better. Three years from now, HE'll BE the most experienced individual that can hit the ground running.....
We spent 1 trillion in Iraq and didnt regulate anything. For eight years, we drank TOXIC water and breathe polluted air. Is that really the standard U want back?
We could have used 1 trillion to build our economy and fight SMART WARS.
Obama isnt perfect, but he's thinking about the best America he can buuild...
Vote anything in ! Then we can change it ! ? Isn't that the Dem veiw of the Constitution ? Besides you people DON'T EVEN KNOW WHATS IN IT ! AND once it's in they can ADD more bad as well as good . This whole thing is a bad idea and 60+% of America knows it.
So far obama has a pretty dismal record of accomplishments when it comes to supporting fellow democrats, if Coakley does lose on Tuesday and by all appearances that is a real possibility, those democrats running this year may decline any help in their elections from obama and the White House.
You may want to check your facts about toxic water and polution. There is no such thing as a smart war , only winners and lossers. Seem's obama doesn't care about winning , only looking good.
the race in MA is already a victory for the republicans, even if coakley actually manages to win. it exposes the reality that voters, particularly independents who supported the president overwhelmingly, now have serious doubts about the democratic party.
in 06 and 08 voters were disgruntled about the actions of the GOP. they felt that then pres. bush and the republicans had taken the country in a direction they were unhappy about. today, some democrats and a lot of independents are disillusioned. they are realizing that democrats are really no better than republicans. worse yet, they are seeing that the president, and the democratic leadership have no intention of making good on promise of change they campaigned on. this is the problem that democrats have. people eventually stop being mad, but disillusionment is something far harder to get over.
The Lose-Lose Scenario for Obama and the Liberals.
It'll be interesting to see if Obama gets booed like Ben Nelson did in his homestate last week.
More entertaining than the playoffs,
ICARE....... I am actually from Massachusetts and have lived here my whole life. We have had to deal with a socialized healthcare system in this state for a few years now and I will tell you that it is an utter disaster. We have the highest tax rate in the nation to pay for for it, over half of our paychecks are forcebly taken from us, and it has still bankrupt our state. We are currently using federal stimulus money to pay our state employees, what will happen when the stimulus money runs out?
I hope he's as successful campaigning for her as he was in New Jersey and Virginia. He might want to concentrate on jobs before the mid-term elections. Even if the healthcare bill passes, it doesn't take effect for 4 years or so. The tax increases for those not blessed to be in unions take effect immediately however. This will not be lost on the voters in November. I know I can't wait to vote out my Senator and Representative. I think they failed my state because we got no bonus for their votes. They stupidly backed the bill from the beginning, so there was no reason to give them anything. Poor planning on their part. By the way, who's paying for the flight and security? Her campaign or my taxes? For the record, I didn't like when President Bush did this either.
Democrats should go to the polls upon the advice of Republicans who claim that this is a referendum on healthcare reform.
If Democrats want healthcare reform, they had better get off the couch and go VOTE!
Republicans have picked apart every word Coakley has uttered, even jokes. If that matters more to Democrats in MA than healthcare reform, fiscal responsibility, due process, equal opportunity, and American justice, then they shame on them.
Vote for healthcare reform. Vote for Democratic principles. VOTE!
Look, we're better off, putting DONKEYS in office.
If we go out there and keep shouting like the Tea Baggers, they will hear us and change.
With the Elephants, dont think about it...
To Larry in Mass , the time bomb is ticking here in Kalifornia with the Washington bribe money paying state employ , You are so right , The Dem's that want this should look at what HAWS happend to porple that already have a LIGHT version of whats to come.