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Massachusetts in crucial vote to fill Senate seat

Polling got underway Tuesday in Massachusetts for a special election to fill the Senate seat left vacant by Edward Kennedy’s death in August. The race is expected to go to the wire.

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The traditionally Democrat stronghold of Massachusetts goes to the polls today. The election, previously thought to be a shoo-in for Democrat Attorney General Martha Coakley, may not be a one way race after all. According to recent polls, her Republican contender, State Senator Scott Brown has closed in, if not surpassed, her lead.

If Brown wins the election, the consequences could be dire not only for President Barack Obama’s cherished healthcare reform bill, which has yet to be finalised, but also for the crucial upcoming mid-term congressional elections.

Up for grabs is the Democrat’s 60-seat majority in the 100-seat Senate, a status that currently allows the party to shoot down a potential filibuster, and therefore push through legislation without a debate. A win for Brown will change all that.

November marks the ever-important mid-term elections in the US, and any hint of change right now, especially in a state so staunchly Democrat as Massachusetts, could detract from the momentum enjoyed by the Democrats since the 2008 presidential elections.

In an effort to push their candidate through, money has been pouring in for last-minute campaigning from both sides of the political divide-- from party officials, unions, business groups and others.

Critics of the election say that because Democrats ran such a lacklustre campaign, Brown has been able to gain ground in the politically liberal state.

"Just a few weeks ago this seemed like a done deal", said FRANCE 24's Washington correspondant, Guillaume Meyer.

"The problem is the past few weeks the Republican candidate has really orchestrated a very efficient campaign, and the Democrats are at a loss. They haven't been effective at defending their candidate and defending their policies, and that's why they feel threatened now."

Edward Kennedy held the Senate seat for 47 years before he died from brain cancer last August. Massachusetts has not elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972.

Polls opened at 0700 local time (1200 GMT), and will close at 2000 (0100 GMT Wednesday). Results are to be announced soon after polling closes.
 

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