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Senate hopefuls trade barbs in tense race.

Byline: John J. Monahan

BOSTON - Republican state Sen. Scott Brown continued turning up the heat on Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley yesterday, pounding away at her support for national health care reform, but she pushed back, saying he refuses to rule out cuts to Social Security benefits for seniors.

The exchanges come as successive polls during the last week indicate the Republican may have whittled away what had been a comfortable lead Ms. Coakley held earlier - and both campaigns and groups supporting them stepped up attack ads on television.

Yesterday morning, Mr. Brown criticized Ms. Coakley for leaving the state Tuesday for a Washington, D.C., fundraising event that included federal health industry lobbyists and unloaded on her support for the pending federal health care bill at a campaign stop at a Chelmsford medical device company where he argued the bill will cost the state jobs.

Mr. Brown put up a new radio ad yesterday in which his two daughters complained that Ms. Coakley and her supporters were "out of line" for "saying hurtful and dishonest things about our dad." The ad does not specify what those things are.

Ms. Coakley, meanwhile, played the senior card. She said she will make "an iron-clad commitment to protect Social Security and Medicare," that Mr. Brown is unwilling to make. She made the statement during a stop at a Boston senior center.

Ms. Coakley seized on a comment Mr. Brown made during the last debate that he would seek a bipartisan commission to recommend changes in Medicare and Social Security, arguing that meant the Republican would consider cuts in Social Security benefits.

She said the pending health care bill would provide better prescription drug coverage for seniors.

Mr. Brown, who, if elected, hopes to cast a key vote to block national health care reforms, claimed the legislation would impose $20 billion in new taxes on medical device manufacturers nationwide between now and 2020.

Richard Packer, chief executive officer of Zoll Medical Corp., said the additional taxes would have "a devastating effect on our business." Mr. Packer was hosting a campaign visit by Mr. Brown to the company's plant in Chelmsford.

While Mr. Brown has raised a reported $1.3 million from sources around the country since Monday, he blasted Ms. Coakley for attending a fundraiser Tuesday night at a Washington restaurant set up by members of the state's congressional delegation and hosted by numerous health care and drug company lobbyists that have a major stake in health care legislation.

The Coakley camp, meanwhile, continued plans for rallies around the state intended to mobilize the state's Democratic establishment in support of Ms. Coakley. The events include appearances by former President Bill Clinton Friday in Boston and Worcester. U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, is lending his help for the campaign event featuring Mr. Clinton at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester.

The Brown campaign is bringing in some firepower to back up his tough talk about terrorists. Rudolph Giuliani, who was mayor of New York City when terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001, plans to campaign for Brown at an event in Boston on Friday.

An updated poll by Rasmussen Reports that a week ago pegged Mr. Brown as trailing by 9 points indicated he may have pulled within a few points of Ms. Coakley by Tuesday. The polls are difficult to compare because the first did not include independent candidate Joseph L. Kennedy and the more recent poll did.

However, a poll of likely voters by Public Policy Polling put Mr. Brown in the lead by a percentage point. Those polls conflict with a Boston Globe poll last weekend that concluded Ms. Coakley was leading by a solid 15 points.

While the wide variance in the polls has many scratching their heads over which ones are right, the discrepant findings have added a new level of uncertainty about the outcome, providing Mr. Brown with a late-stage opening and a surge in political and financial support from national GOP figures and groups.

Speculation continues over whether President Barack Obama, who earlier this week sent a note to Democratic supporters asking them to volunteer for the Coakley campaign, may make a visit to the state to stump for Ms. Coakley before Tuesday.

One person worried about the outcome is Victoria Kennedy, widow of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who sent an e-mail note to Coakley supporters today.

"We're going to need every vote again," she wrote. "This race will be very close, and we need you to get us to victory."

ART: PHOTOS

CUTLINE: (1) Martha Coakley speaks to reporters yesterday during a campaign stop at a senior center in Dorchester. (2) Scott Brown yesterday at Zoll Medical Corp. in Chelmsford.

PHOTOG: ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTOS
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jan 14, 2010
Words:791
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