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Earlier this month, Massachusetts Democrats were in panic mode after a handful of polls indicated US Sen. Scott Brown had overtaken and pulled away from Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren.

But with a more recent poll showing the race once again too close to call, speculation is growing that polling methodology and sampling may be the reason for the swings in voter sentiment instead of any real change in the dynamics of the race.

A series of polls done by various organizations from November through early February all showed the race tight with Warren in a slight lead. The MassINC Polling Group in February had it 46-43 for Warren, with 12 percent undecided.

Then came polls by Suffolk University, Rasmussen, and Western New England University indicating voter attitudes had shifted. Suffolk, for example, had Brown up 49-40 with 11 percent undecided. Panic among Democrats ensued, only to ease a bit when a poll by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling put Warren up 46-41, with 13 percent undecided.

The Huffington Post, which bought Pollster.com in 2010, analyzes the most recent poll and the earlier ones and suggests methodology may be behind the shifting numbers. One story in particular questioned the way Suffolk pollster David Paleologos asked a series of questions about the candidates before posing the horse-race question. Paleologos dismissed the criticism.

Relax. It’s early. Brown and Warren haven’t really engaged yet. It’s too early for horse-race polls to have any real meaning.

                                                                                                                            --Bruce Mohl



BEACON HILL

As crime bill negotiations drag on, the state’s district attorneys press for key changes, the Salem News reports.

The Globe, in an editorial, mildly chides Gov. Deval Patrick for refusing to recognize revised federal jobs data indicating Massachusetts didn’t do so well creating jobs last year.

The state Inspector General’s office is investigating Gloucester-based SeniorCare for its handling of care for a man who died earlier this month, the Gloucester Times reports.

The Brockton Enterprise reports Massachusetts’ “stand your ground” bill, filed over a year ago, gets fresh scrutiny in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting.

The Eagle-Tribune, in an editorial, condemns the Legislature for refusing to apply the state’s Open Meeting Law to itself.

The vast majority of state EBT benefits are being cashed in at banks and ATMs, not grocery and convenience stores.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Ayer and Harvard voters reject plans for housing for seniors and veterans at the former army barracks at Vicksburg Square in Devens, the Lowell Sun reports. For an in-depth examination of the Devens situation, check out CommonWealth’s story, “Divining Devens.”

Troubles continue to mount for Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua, who cannot afford an attorney, the Globe reports.

A group of ghost hunters will visit Middleboro Town Hall looking for paranormal activity, the Patriot Ledger reports. It will be the fourth such exploration the Town Hall has seen, but no word whether anyone has found any ghosts.

The Globe’s Joan Vennochi looks at busing through the eyes of James Hennigan.

Revere officials are counting on proposed residential, commercial, and hotel development at the Wonderland T stop to transform the community, the Lynn Item reports.

Northampton prepares for its annual bear invasion.

Foxborough calls in the state Inspector General’s office in its ongoing billboard dispute with the Kraft Group.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

The US Supreme Court appears split on the future of the federal health care law if the mandate is dropped. If the Supremes rule the mandate unconstitutional, the Globe builds a case that US Sen. Scott Brown is at least partly to blame because his election forced Democrats in Congress to pass the law without a severability clause.

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg calls for the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, and a cease fire in what he calls federal budgetary class warfare, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed column.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels talks about trimming state government.

Big business is surprised that the Tea Party reps it bankrolled in 2010 are hellbent on acting like Tea Partiers.

ELECTION 2012

The Patriot Ledger endorses the proposed ban on political robo-calling.

According to a letter to the editor, a Republican editorial was off base in calling out Elizabeth Warren for not making as many campaign stops in western Mass as Scott Brown. A member of the Southwick Democratic State Committee says she’s been out to the area almost five times as often Brown.

Keller@Large looks at Mitt Romney’s likability problem in contrast to President Obama’s efforts to boost his personal appeal in the last few weeks. Sen. Marco Rubio endorses Romney, and swats aside vice presidential rumors. Rick Santorum doesn’t have Rubio, but he does have a shiny pair of bowling shoes! The Atlantic wonders if Romney’s hyper-hawkishness will come back to bite him in November; the magazine’s Barry Goldwater comparison surely isn’t flattering. David Bernstein bats aside talk that Romney should dump Eric Fehrnstrom, because if Fehrnstrom is gone, who else will look petty and ridiculous for Romney?

Don Bivens drops out of the Democratic US Senate primary in Arizona, making a clear path for former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, Governing reports.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

If you think regional gas prices are high now, just wait and see what happens if no one buys a an unprofitable oil refinery in Philadelphia.

Single-family home sales rise 33 percent last month, the Globe reports.

The New Hampshire House rejects casino legislation by a vote of 236-108, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan receives large raise despite the bank’s losses, WBUR reports. In fact, CEOs all of the country are still doing quite well compared to everyone else.

The biggest loser in the $2 billion sale of the LA Dodgers: Jamie McCourt, who relinquished claims over half the team for $131 million last fall. Ex-husband Frank, on the other hand, is sitting pretty.

EDUCATION

The president of Framingham State University goes to Washington to tell President Obama that public institutions need more funding from state governments if they are going to be able to control costs.

Boston schools could lose a $9 million federal grant if a contract between the school department and the teachers union is not negotiated by the end of this month, the Globe reports.

TRANSPORTATION

The T proposes a 23 percent average fare increase, reports the Globe. The Eagle-Tribune reports that a frequent commuter with a monthly pass for travel between Haverhill and Boston will pay $672 more a year. The Lynn Item reports that buses from Salem, Marblehead, and Lynn going direct to Boston are being eliminated. The Salem News notes Cape Ann was spared service cuts. NECN surveys commuters. The Globe’s Steven Syre says the state is once again kicking the T can down the road.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The New Bedford Standard-Times weighs the pros and cons of wind versus solar power.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Police video shows George Zimmerman with no apparent injuries on the night Trayvon Martin was shot and killed, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Spike Lee apologizes for retweeting the address of George Zimmerman; it turns out the address belonged to a couple who have no connection to the Zimmerman involved in the Martin slaying.

A couple is charged with second-degree murder and improper disposal of a body in a bizarre case involving a Vermont teacher, NECN reports.

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