Part of it is the stakes. Massachusetts is one of only two realistic pickup opportunities for Democrats. But another reason why the candidates' sound bites are receiving a great deal of coverage is that Warren and Brown are largely untested, politically, and opponents see an opportunity to frame each of them in a negative light to voters. Warren has never run for elected office before and Brown ran in the special election in 2009, but has no other statewide campaign experience. Strategists on both sides and voters in the state remember well the 2009 special election campaign, in which gaffes played a big role, especially those from Democratic nominee Martha Coakley. Who can forget Coakley's comments about not wanting to stand outside Fenway Park in the cold to campaign? "They want to replay what they were able to do to Coakley, which is to say that she is out of step or doesn't understand the problems of the people in Massachusetts," said Bay State Democratic strategist Michael Goldman. A replay of 2009/10 is not the only thing on the mind of Republicans. Some point to the gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Robert Reich in 2002, which ultimately fell short. "He didn't know where Berkshire County was in western Massachusetts... that kind of resonates with people," said former Rep. Peter Torkildsen, R-Mass. A glance at the early polling in the race also illustrates why both sides are eager to mine for sound bites or off the cuff remarks that could have legs. The most recent Western New England University survey showed that over 46 percent of voters either did not have an opinion or had not heard of Warren. Republicans see an opportunity to define her early. The same poll showed that there is room for improvement for Warren among independents: A majority preferred Brown. If Democrats can highlight Brown saying something that could turn off a broad swath of the electorate, it could help Warren's case with the middle. So far, Warren has held her own, proving to be a capable debater and competent campaigner. None of the sound bites or videos Republicans have distributed appears to be very damaging. For Brown, the "Thank God" gaffe was unwise, but it's better for him that it happened now and now next fall. Much as the video/audio back-and-forth has dominated the early days of the race, the economy is still the number one issue on voters' minds, and will likely take center stage once the general election begins. The question is who will have won the definition war by then.
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