With state Sen. Scott Brown and Attorney General Martha Coakley both cleaning house in their respective party primaries, the four-week sprint to the Senate has boiled down to one question: Does the Republican Brown have a shot against Coakley and the state's formidable Democratic machine?

With state Sen. Scott Brown and Attorney General Martha Coakley both cleaning house in their respective party primaries, the four-week sprint to the Senate has boiled down to one question: Does the Republican Brown have a shot against Coakley and the state's formidable Democratic machine?


Some, like Framingham attorney Roger Dowd, a Democratic political operative, suggest Coakley should not rest on her laurels during the holidays.


"I'd be taking him very seriously," said Dowd. "I don't think you can go away for the month. You have to work."


Dowd, recalling working in a Democratic campaign against Brown in the past, came away thinking, "he was pretty well-organized."


Some Republicans, like Holliston resident Dan Haley, insist that the election is ripe for a GOP victory.


"Ironically, Massachusetts is better situated to appreciate what" it's like to have Democrats running things, said Haley. "We've experienced that for a couple years."


Those years have yielded, "ballooning deficits and increased taxes," said Haley.


"Massachusetts will vote for a Republican if they think they're a better candidate," said Haley, an attorney who lost a state representative bid last year to Democrat Carolyn Dykema. "And the context is as good as it can be."


Ed McGrath, Framingham Republican Town Committee chairman, agrees.


He says Massachusetts has the most per capita debt of any state in the nation.


"The economy and the threat of even more taxes, the uncertainty over health care reform, the cap and trade ... all of that is really hurting businesses and making them uncertain about investment," said mcGrath.


Yesterday at his Needham campaign headquarters, Brown signed a pledge not to raise taxes.


McGrath acknowledges Brown needs to garner a good chunk of independents, and some Democrats too, in order to succeed.


That's because the numbers game, on both the state and local levels, does not favor Brown.


Marlborough, for instance, has 2,684 voters registered as Republicans versus 6,409 Democrats. The city has 11,189 unenrolled registered voters.


The Democratic Party also dominates Framingham by a 12,574 to 3,436 margin. There are 17,769 unenrolled registered voters in town.


In Ashland, the numbers are similar. That town has 3,022 registered Democrats, 1,271 Republicans, and 6,125 unenrolled registered voters.


Where does that leave Brown? Battling for unenrolled votes right here, in MetroWest.


"If you're Scott Brown you have to appeal to the 495 belt independents. That's where Bill Weld, Paul Cellucci and Mitt Romney got elected," said former state Rep. John Stefanini, a Democrat from Framingham.


Republicans can do well on Cape Cod and in western Massachusetts, while older urban areas like Boston and Brockton typically go to Democrats, said Stefanini.


"The battleground is suburban areas like Middlesex County," said Stefanini. "The other areas are already cut and dry."


But Coakley's eight-year stint as Middlesex district attorney may serve her well locally, says Stefanini, leaving Brown to make up a lot of ground in a short amount of time.


"Martha Coakley is extremely well-known ... and this is one of her strongest areas in the state. That doesn't give him a lot of room," said Stefanini. "Elections are always unknown until the final count, but it's hard to imagine where Scott Brown goes for votes."


Stefanini was not the only one skeptical of Brown's chances.


Some in his own party, like Framingham resident Mike Mingolelli think it is unlikely Massachusetts will go red on Jan. 8.


Asked if he thought Brown had a chance of winning the seat outside a Framingham polling station Tuesday night, Mingolelli said, "No, not in this state."


MetroWest Daily News writer Dan McDonald can be reached at 508-626-4416 or at dmcdonal@cnc.com.