Mass. Senate hopefuls battle to the very end

BOSTON — Nearly one year to the day after President Barack Obama was sworn into office as an agent of change, Massachusetts Senate candidates battled to the wire Monday in an election that threatened his agenda and reflected voters’ frustration with the status quo.

Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown scoured the state for votes on the eve of the special election to succeed the late Edward M. Kennedy, with the Democrats’ 60-vote Senate supermajority at stake.

From a distance, the president made one last appeal in a TV ad for Coakley, his words reflecting how much was on the line for Democrats in the face of a surprisingly strong challenge by Republican Scott Brown in a state that hasn’t elected a Republican senator since 1972.

Obama needs Coakley, the state’s attorney general, to win to deny Republicans the ability to block his initiatives — specifically the near-complete health care plan — with a filibuster-sustaining 41st Republican vote.

Backers of Coakley and Brown worked feverishly to identify their supporters and persuade undecided voters to move their way. Each side deployed armies of volunteers to man phone banks and trudge door to door through ice and snow to encourage people to vote.

A third candidate in the race, Joseph L. Kennedy, a Libertarian running as an independent, said Monday he’s been bombarded with e-mails from Brown supporters urging him to drop out and endorse the Republican.

Special elections tend to draw relatively few voters, but Republicans and Democrats predicted a high turnout today.