MassINC for WBUR. 8/30-9/1. Likely voters. MoE +/- 4.4% (no trendlines):
Elizabeth Warren (D): 35
Scott Brown (R-inc): 44
Alan Khazei (D): 30
Scott Brown (R-inc): 45
Setti Warren (D): 28
Scott Brown (R-inc): 46
Bob Massie (D): 29
Scott Brown (R-inc): 45
Previous polls of Massachusetts' 2012 Senate race haven't looked particularly appetizing for Democrats, maybe hitting its nadir with Newton Mayor Setti Warren's
52-9 performance against Scott Brown in a Suffolk poll in April. While losses ranging from 9 to 18 in today's poll (the first from little-known local pollster MassINC on behalf of local NPR affiliate WBUR) still shouldn't have Democrats dancing in the streets for joy, it show some important positive developments: Scott Brown is polling below the safety of the 50 percent mark, and Elizabeth Warren, as she becomes better-known, seems to opening up an electability gap compared to the other Dems in the field. A second poll out today (from UNH) also shows Brown's favorables in definite decline.
This poll is the first time an actual candidate (as opposed to various fantasy candidates, like Gov. Deval Patrick or anybody with the last name "Kennedy") has polled within single digits of Brown. Law professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren isn't officially a candidate at this point, but has been doing very candidate-like things in the last few weeks, most notably keynoting a Boston labor conference yesterday. (The other Warren (Setti), City Year founder Alan Khazei, and former Lt. Gov. candidate Bob Massie have all declared their candidacy; with the recent decline by Rep. Mike Capuano and the likely imminent Elizabeth Warren entry, the long-uncertain field is finally starting to look like it's solidifying.)
Warren is down by 9, but that's progress, at least when measured against previous polls by other pollsters: she polled at 47-32 against Brown according to PPP in June, and at 51-34 in a WNEC poll in March. Her main problem, at this point, is that she (and all the other Dems) remain little-known; her favorables here are 17/13 while 44% of respondents hadn't heard of her. (That's compared to 52% unknowns for Khazei, 56% for Massie, and 65% for Setti Warren, which probably accounts for Elizabeth Warren performing a little better than the others.)
Without trendlines, it's hard to say how much luster is coming off Brown's star; his favorables in this poll are a solid 54/25 (which is actually notably better than where PPP saw him in June, at 48/36). His head-to-head numbers see him substantially underperforming his personal popularity, though, which is no surprise given Massachusetts' deep-blue hue. A second poll out today—from Univ. of New Hampshire, on behalf of the Boston Globe (taken Aug. 20-31)—does have trendlines, showing some downward movement: they find Brown's favorables are at 49/26, down from 58/21 a year ago. The UNH poll doesn't have head-to-heads, but it does find Elizabeth Warren at 23/12 favorables, unknown to 60 percent.
PPP's Tom Jensen observed in June that the large majority of the undecideds are Dems and are likely to break in the Dem nominee's direction as she or he rises out of anonymity, so this race seems likely to continue to tighten. Given the competing currents of the state's strong Democratic lean and Brown's strong individual brand, it has the potential to be one of 2012's closest races ... which makes picking a Democratic candidate who can effectively draw the contrasts between the two parties that much more important.
4:12 PM PT (David Nir): If you'd like to sign Daily Kos's petition urging Elizabeth Warren to join the race (as David Jarman notes, she's not officially a candidate yet), you can do so here.