Mass. Senate: Kennedys Back Coakley; Brown Encouraged By Poll : It's All Politics The Kennedy family is rallying behind Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley — with just 12 days to go before the special election.

Mass. Senate: Kennedys Back Coakley; Brown Encouraged By Poll

The news of the day regarding the upcoming special election to fill the remaining three years of the late Ted Kennedy's Senate term seems a bit curious to me as for why it's considered news. But here it is.

This morning, with 12 days to go before the vote, members of the Kennedy family -- notably Ted's widow Vicki and nephew/ex-Rep. Joe -- will be endorsing the Democratic nominee for the seat, state Attorney General Martha Coakley. Also on hand to give his imprimatur is Paul Kirk, the longtime Kennedy friend who currently occupies the Senate seat via temporary appointment.

Ordinarily, this should be a dog-bites-man story. But the Boston Globe's Matt Viser notes that Coakley "has not enjoyed a particularly close relationship" with the Kennedy family, and their endorsement comes "after weeks of remaining on the sidelines":

The planned endorsements mark the first time that the Kennedys have been active in the campaign in a significant way. It is also Coakley's most concerted effort to link herself with the Kennedy legacy. ...

During the Democratic primary race, Coakley invoked Kennedy's name far less often than did her three Democratic rivals, who each featured him in their television ads and pointed to him as inspiration for their campaigns.

Indeed, since she jumped in the race, Coakley has rarely mentioned the legendary senator - her campaign slogan is "A Different Kind of Leader'' - and some in the Kennedy family were said to be upset that she announced her candidacy so quickly after the late senator died of a brain tumor in August.

But with a national health care bill hanging in the balance, the Kennedy family members are expected to highlight the need for passage of such legislation and state that Coakley is poised to help carry out the late senator's dream of expanding health care coverage nationally.

Coakley may feel she needs a boost after a Rasmussen poll released earlier this week had the Republican candidate, state Sen. Scott Brown, within nine points of Coakley (50-41). That's closer than most people thought. Scott Rasmussen, the polling firm's president, said, "It has nothing to do with Brown and everything to do with the political environment we're seeing nationally." More from the Boston Herald's Jessica Van Sack:

He [Rasmussen] added that Brown appears to be an "opposition candidate" supported by many who are unhappy with the direction of the country - and most of all, health-care reform. "The people who feel strongly about health care are more likely to oppose it," Rasmussen said.

Perhaps Rasmussen's most stunning finding was that the Wrentham state senator leads 65 percent to 21 percent among the unenrolled, the state's biggest voting bloc. The poll did not query voters about Joseph L. Kennedy, an unenrolled candidate.

A Republican upstart replacing liberal lion Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in the bluest state would be a "major coup" with "national consequences," said Thomas Whalen, Boston University social science professor, hastening to add, "I still think she's gonna win it, but Brown's making it much more interesting."

Nate Silver, a political statistician, crunched the poll numbers and wrote on his blog that a 9-point gap between Brown and Coakley seems "entirely possible."

But Suffolk University pollster David Paleologos said the survey may be lowballing the turnout among unenrolled voters, including many women who will break for Coakley. "I don't know if (Brown's lead) will hold up," he said.

Part of Brown's gain in the polls, opines Herald columnist Margery Eagan, is because he's "moving left":

Yesterday morning I would have called Scott Brown a social conservative.

By the time he finished an hour with Herald editors yesterday afternoon, he was calling himself a "social moderate." Yet he sounded like a social liberal.

Gay marriage, which he once wanted to put up for a referendum? "This is settled law" in Massachusetts, he said. "People have moved on." ...

Pro-choice or pro-life? Brown, who's repeatedly pushed for abortion restrictions and has the support of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, said he doesn't like those "labels." Pressed, he agreed the "choice" should be between a woman and her doctor - the very definition of pro-choice.

Yet in 2005 he sponsored a draconian amendment to a bill allowing emergency room personnel to turn away rape victims seeking emergency contraception. Yesterday he did his best to make such a scenario appear less horrifying. ...

Scott Brown even said he'd have voted for Sonia Sotomayor, the U.S. Supreme Court Justice ridiculed by the right as the ultimate angry, affirmation-action hire with the far-left agenda and the mediocre SATS.

The Globe's Joan Vennochi says that Brown "still needs a political miracle" to win on Jan. 19. Brown's positions "should be poison to Massachusetts voters who sent Kennedy to Washington for 47 years." But Coakley, who is running "a flat campaign" and who "seems to be taking the outcome ... for granted," is "giving him hope."

Earlier in the week, former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, an independent voter, endorsed Brown. Sprint to the Senate, the blog of member station WBUR in Boston, has this quote that stirred up some bad memories for at least one former Bronxite at the Political Junkie:

Schilling likened Brown's candidacy to his Red Sox team defeating the New York Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series. A Brown victory, Schilling wrote, would be "a comeback/upset of 2004 proportions."

I already miss Johnny Damon.