There have been no recent "scientific" polls for the January 19 Massachusetts special election that will fill the Senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy's death. But there has been one kinda-sloppy telephone survey suggesting that Republican contender Scott Brown, a state senator in the Bay State legislature, might actually defeat Attorney General Martha Coakley, who won the early-December Democratic primary.

I am content with Coakley, as I wrote a while back. But I voted for (and contributed to) Alan Khazei, the founder of City Year, who is one of the best of the "community organizers" I've met. He's a comer ... so watch.

Massachusetts is a reliably "blue" state, at least in national elections. In fact, it was stupid enough to vote for George McGovern in 1972, the one state in the union to do so. (I was also stupid enough to contribute a lot of money to his campaign.)

But, for sixteen years (1991-2007), there was a steady string of Republicans sitting as governor in the State House: William Weld, Paul Cellucci, Jane Swift and Mitt Romney. You might say that this GOP side-trope among the voters is bad news for Deval Patrick. I don't really think that's so. He's been a realistic chief executive at a time when realism is a necessary trait for governors.

So let me tell you what my spitzfingergeful confides in me. That someone who is a reasonable conservative on economic matters and conveys reasonable character has a good chance to beat the anointed Democrat, who happens to be a run-of-the-mill Democrat.

Brown has already put himself out there as a tax cutter without really saying what spending cuts he would favor. This makes for a nonsense ledger. As it happens, I favor the Obama economic agenda, even something with a more egalitarian thrust. But I don't think Massachusetts does. The voters are scared.

Brown compares himself to John Kennedy in a just-released television spot. Well, the Dems have gone hysterical. This is a sign of their (incipient) panic. Maybe their panic is apt.