There's good news and bad news for Democratic hopes of taking down Scott Brown in our newest Massachusetts poll. The good news is that Brown's approval numbers are starting to decline. What was a +24 approval spread in December at 53/29 has now been cut in half to +12 at 48/36. The bad news is that with no standout Democratic candidates ready to make the race yet Brown leads 8 hypothetical opponents we tested against him by anywhere from 9 to 25 points.
Brown's approval numbers are down because he is starting to lose a little bit of his shine with Democratic voters. On our last poll he came close to breaking even with them at 35% approving to 41% who disapproved. Now it's 31% approving to 52% who disapprove. His popular standing with Republicans (74/15) and independents (58/25) is basically unchanged.
The key to Brown's ability to win a full term is going to be his continuing to make voters feel like he's different from the rest of the Republicans. And he's still succeeding on that front. 54% of Massachusetts voters think the GOP in general is too conservative. But only 33% express that sentiment about Brown. Most notably only 21% of independents feel that Brown himself is too far right while 47% say they consider that to be the case for his party as a whole. It has not been a great 5 months in the polls for Congressional Republicans but Brown is still differentiating himself from his peers.
The Democrat who performs best against Brown is last year's losing nominee, Martha Coakley. She trails by 9 points at 49-40, a performance slightly worse than her 5 point margin of defeat last year. A pair of the state's Congressmen have similar deficits with Mike Capuano down 10 at 48-38 and Ed Markey down by 10 as well at 47-37.
No one else comes within 15 points of Brown. Elizabeth Warren trails by that margin at 47-32, Alan Khazei is down 19 at 50-31, Rachel Maddow who we tested just out of curiosity has a 20 point deficit at 49-29, Bob Massie is behind by 23 at 48-25, and Setti Warren does the worst with a 25 point gap between him and Brown at 48-23.
These numbers are not quite as bad for Democrats as they look. Let's look at the Elizabeth Warren case for example. Only 38% of voters know her well enough to have formed an opinion about her and when she's matched up against Brown 27% of Democrats are undecided compared to only 3% of Republicans. She has much more room to grow.
The trend of low name recognition for the potential Democratic candidates and Republicans being completely lined up behind Brown while high numbers of Democratic voters are undecided persists in all of the match ups we tested. That doesn't mean someone will catch up to Brown eventually, but it does mean this will get closer as the Democratic candidates really get out there and campaign and become better known to voters in the state. For now though it looks like Brown is continuing to do a good job of navigating the tough road of a Republican Senator representing a blue state.
Full results here