A Pre-Election Day Prediction: Massachusetts Will Retire Barney Frank

Like a movie shown out of focus and at a high rate, the election in Massachusetts's Fourth Congressional District has been exhilarating but difficult to appreciate fully. However, in the last week, the film has slowed and there is a laser-like focus to the race. Massachusetts will do it again. A little-known but young, intelligent, and energetic candidate will transfer a seat thought to be impregnable by the Democrats and the pundits into the Republican camp.

Support for this prediction is both objective and subjective. Recent polling shows that the race has narrowed to a gap that is well within the range that cannot be measured accurately by polling. Moreover, the polls show that Bielat’s momentum has continued to build and that the momentum has occurred among crucial independents and in the usual Democratic strongholds in the southern part of the district. Frank’s support, which has been consistently below 50% (a crucial indicator of an incumbent’s chances), does not appear to be rising. The curve of Bielat’s support is on a vector to exceed Frank’s support before the date of the election.

To those who denigrate the polls, like Barney Frank, an objective and persuasive rule convinces even cold-eyed lawyers like me that the polls are reliable. The rule is that “money talks and bull---t walks.” The amount and number of contributions to Bielat’s campaign represent concrete evidence that Bielat has reached the plateau that Scott Brown attained; that Bielat not only should win but that he will win.

There are also numerous subjective factors that have weight because they all point in the same direction and mimic the factors that applied not only to Scott Brown but also to the second Reagan election in which Massachusetts voted for Reagan.

In 2000, Malcolm Gladwell published The Tipping Point, which explained that there are tipping points of critical mass in sociological matters, i.e., “ the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point” that marks the point at which qualitative changes occur. That is what happened in this election. Gladwell explained how such changes happen, but one of the factors is that certain people, opinion makers, have a large impact.