When Senator Ted Kennedy died this summer, it was assumed that his Massachusetts Senate seat would be filled by another Democrat. Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by 3 to 1, but Independent voters outnumber both of them.
Now, in a sign that President Obama and Democrats are losing support, the special election Tuesday is closer than anyone thought possible.
The Democratic candidate is state attorney general Martha Coakley. A lifelong prosecutor, she's decidedly unflashy.
Her opponent is state Senator Scott Brown, who, at 22, posed for a nude centerfold in "Cosmopolitan" magazine. Calling himself an independent conservative, he has vowed, if elected, to provide the 41st vote to block the Democrats' health care reform bill in the Senate.
From the outset, Coakley wrapped herself in the Kennedy mantle, and early polls showed her with a 30-point lead.
But, in recent weeks, Brown has surged. A turning point came just after Christmas, when Brown aired an ad comparing himself to President John F. Kennedy.
This short video explains the race and why Democrats need the seat to pass health care reform and other items on President Obama's priority list.
"Every dollar released from taxation that is spent or invested will help create a new job and a new salary." - Scott Brown, Republican Candidate
"He wants to go back to the drawing board. He does indeed. He wants to go back to those Bush/Cheney policies that provide for the very wealthiest." - Martha Coakley, Democratic Candidate
"With all due respect, it is not the Kennedy seat, and it's not the Democrats' seat. It's the people's seat." - Scott Brown, Republican Candidate
"It's the people's seat, the mother struggling to make ends meet, the father trying to find a job. My husband fought for them, and so does Martha Coakley." - Vicki Kennedy, wife of the deceased Senator Ted Kennedy
1. Who was Senator Ted Kennedy?
2. What happens when a senator dies in office?
3. What are some issues important to Democrats in Washington right now?
4. What are some issues important to Republicans in Washington right now?
5. Why is it sometimes hard for the president and Congress to work together?
1. Why are Democrats having trouble in Massachusetts?
2. How important is charisma in politics?
3. What role does money play in special elections like the one in Massachusetts?
4. During the debate, the Republican candidate said "it is not the Kennedy seat, and it's not the Democrats' seat. It's the people's seat." What does this statement say about the current situation? What do you think of this statement?