In a feisty debate Monday night at the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts, moderated by CNN analyst David Gergen, Massachusetts, Attorney General Martha Coakley, a liberal Democrat, faced off against Republican State Senator Scott Brown and long shot Libertarian contender, Joseph L. Kennedy.
Voters will decide on Kennedy's successor when they go to the polls on January 19.
A recent Rasmussen Reports poll had Coakley with a nine point lead over Brown, while a recent Boston Globe poll had her up by 15 points. But one new poll from Public Policy Polling showed Brown leading Coakley by one point, 48 to 47 percent.
Coakley, who up to now has run what many say has been an overly cautious campaign, is now stepping up her attacks on Brown. And former president Bill Clinton is coming to Boston Friday to head a rally on her behalf.
Brown, meanwhile, has won recent endorsements from Sen. John McCain, the Boston Herald, and the conservative website "Palin for America." The Irish American Republicans lobby group also endorsed him.
In Tuesday's editorial, the Boston Herald said that Brown's service as a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard's Judge Advocate General's Corps gave him "a unique perspective on critical military issues and issues related to the war on terror."
During Monday's debate, Brown said that he was "scared" by Coakley's views about how to deal with the terrorist threat.
"To think that we'd give people who want to kill us constitutional rights and lawyer them up at our expense, instead of treating them as enemy combatants to get as much information as we can under legal means, it just makes no sense to me," Brown said.
Coakley countered that there was "nothing more important than keeping this country safe....but we need to do it as smartly as we can."
Coakley chided Brown for his proposals to cut taxes, accusing him of wanting to "go back to those Bush-Cheney policies that provide for the very wealthiest."
Brown shot back: "you can run against Bush-Cheney, but I'm Scott Brown. I live in Wrentham. I drive a truck."
The issue of health care also sparked disagreement. Brown said he wants to kill the bill currently before Congress by being the "41st vote," while Coakley said she would be proud to be the "60th vote" in support of President Obama's health care plans.
With money for both candidates now pouring in from around the country, the airways will be filled with political ads in these final days of the campaign as Brown and Coakley sprint to the finish.
In its endorsement of Brown, meanwhile, the IAR said the candidate was a respected Irish American legislator, whose family roots went back to County Sligo.
"He is a principled and successful leader, who will help to preserve our freedoms, defend our country, lower our taxes, and represent the best tradition of Massachusetts as an independent and informed voice in the United States Senate," said Thomas Mason, former general counsel of the Massachusetts Republican Party, and chairman of the Irish American Republicans of Massachusetts.
"The Irish American Republicans are proud to endorse Scott Brown, for the U.S. Senate," IAR national chairman, Grant Lally. "In these dangerous times, we need a responsible leader like Senator Scott Brown. He knows the dangers in this world, is a serious public servant, and is strongly committed to fiscal responsibility in government. Unlike his clueless opponent, Scott Brown will bring distinction to Massachusetts in the US Senate."
"We are urging all our members to volunteer in Massachusetts, make calls to voters, and contribute to Scott Brown's campaign. The stakes for America are too high to sit back. Scott Brown is a great Irish American and a true patriot, and we need him in the U.S. Senate," Lally said.