Truly scary amounts: check out your town.
Truly scary amounts: check out your town.
Dana Millbank summarizing the Tea Party:
A movement of the plutocrats, by the political professionals and for the powerful.
Here's the rest of his Wash Post column:
On the morning of Oct. 14, a cyber-insurgency caused servers to crash at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The culprits, however, weren't attacking the chamber; they were well-meaning citizens who overwhelmed the big-business lobbying group with a sudden wave of online contributions. It was one of the more extraordinary events in the annals of American populism: the common man voluntarily giving money to make the rich richer.
These donors to the cause of the Fortune 500 were motivated by a radio appeal from the de facto leader of the Tea Party movement, Glenn Beck, who told them: "Put your money where your mouth is. If you have a dollar, please go to . . . the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and donate today." Chamber members, he said, "are our parents. They're our grandparents. They are us."
They are? Listed as members of the chamber's board are representatives from Pfizer, ConocoPhillips, Lockheed Martin, JPMorgan Chase, Dow Chemical, Ken Starr's old law and lobbying firm, and Rolls-Royce North America. Nothing says grass-roots insurgency quite like Rolls-Royce -- and nothing says populist revolt quite like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In describing the big-business group as "us," Beck (annual revenue: $32 million) provided an unintended moment of clarity into the power behind the Tea Party movement. These aren't peasants with pitchforks; these are plutocrats with payrolls.
There is genuine populist anger out there. But the angry have been deceived and exploited by posers who belong to the same class of "elites" and "insiders" that the Tea Party movement supposedly deplores. Americans who want to stick it to the man are instead sending money to the man.
Consider the candidates on the ballot next month who are getting Tea Party support. In the Connecticut Senate race, there's Linda McMahon, who with her husband has a billion-dollar pro-wrestling empire. The challenger to Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold in Wisconsin, Ron Johnson, is a millionaire manufacturing executive. The former head of Gateway computers, Rick Snyder, is spending generously from his fortune to win the Michigan governor's race.
In New York, the Republican gubernatorial candidate is developer Carl Paladino, with a net worth put at $150 million. And Rick Scott, running for governor in Florida, has a net worth of $219 million from his career as a health-care executive. Then there's California, where the Republican Senate nominee is former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina and the gubernatorial candidate is former e-Bay boss Meg Whitman.
Democrats have their phony populists, too. Billionaire Jeff Greene, who cashed in on subprime mortgages, made an unsuccessful attempt at the U.S. Senate nomination in Florida. But more often this year, it's the Democrats who are defending themselves against the "elite" allegation.
"The elite's fear and loathing of the tea party movement is rooted in the recognition that the real change is only now coming," writes Tony Blankley, the conservative commentator who exempts himself from the elite label even though he worked for the speaker of the House and now toils for a prominent PR firm. The Tea Party, he wrote, will "constrain the elite's economic and cultural hegemony."
Oh? Who will do this constraining of the elite's hegemony? Why, people such as the Tea Party's Senate candidate from Alaska, Joe Miller (Yale Law School); and from Kentucky, Rand Paul (Duke Medical School), and from Colorado, Ken Buck (Princeton University).
NY Times (watch their accompanying video report):
Henry David Thoreau was jailed here 164 years ago for refusing to pay taxes while living at Walden Pond. Now the town has Jean Hill to contend with.Mrs. Hill, an octogenarian previously best known for her blueberry jam, proposed banning the sale of bottled water here at a town meeting this spring. Voters approved, with the intent of making Concord the first town in the nation to strip Aquafina, Poland Spring and the like from its stores.
In orchestrating an outright ban, Mrs. Hill, 82, has achieved something that powerful environmental groups have not even tried. The bottled water industry is not pleased; it has threatened to sue if the ban takes effect as planned on Jan. 1. Officials here have hinted that they might not strictly enforce it, but Mrs. Hill, who described herself as obsessed, said that would only deepen her resolve.
“I’m going to work until I drop on this,” she said. “If you believe in something, you have to persist and you have to have a thick skin.”
Tom Lauria, a spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association, questioned why Mrs. Hill would single out bottled water when there are so many other things packaged in plastic. “Some people in the industry kind of respect her because of her age and her vision,” he said, “but we believe that vision is distorted. There are far worse products to pick on than water.”
Mrs. Hill’s crusade began a few years ago when her grandson, then 10, told her about the so-called Pacific garbage patch, a vortex of plastic and other debris floating between California and Hawaii, thought to be twice the size of Texas.
She researched and homed in on bottled water, finding that millions of plastic bottles were disposed of daily and that most were not recycled. While most opponents of bottled water have sought piecemeal change, like getting government agencies to stop buying it, Mrs. Hill wanted her affluent, erudite town to take a bolder step.
“The bottled water companies are draining our aquifers and selling it back to us,” she said, repeating her pitch from the town meeting in April. “We’re trashing our planet, all because of greed.”
Mrs. Hill’s presentation compelled some 300 voters to support the ban. But days later, town officials said the ban appeared unenforceable. They have asked the state attorney general’s office for guidance.
“It’s our responsibility to carry out the wishes of town meeting, but we’re struggling a little with how to do that,” said Christopher Whelan, the town manager. “It’s still up in the air what will happen on Jan. 1.”
Mr. Lauria said the bottled water association would consider suing if the attorney general’s office signs off on the ban. “It’s a completely legal commodity, and to ban it runs afoul of interstate commerce considerations,” he said.
As for Mrs. Hill, Mr. Whelan said she belonged to a long tradition of town residents channeling Thoreau and other big-thinking forbears.
As New Englanders await a decision in Massachusetts on a bitterly contested proposal to build the nation’s first offshore wind farm, the State of Rhode Island is forging ahead with its own project in the hope of outpacing — and upstaging — its neighbor.
Crucial to its strategy is dispelling worries that economics will trump the environment, or the broader public good.
Instead of having a private developer dominate the research on potential sites, as Massachusetts has, Rhode Island embarked on a three-year scientific study, to be completed in August, of all waters within 30 miles of its coast. It has spent more than $8 million on research into bird migration patterns, wildlife habitats, fish distribution, fishermen’s needs and areas that might be of cultural importance to Indian tribes.
Its goal has been to head off the hurdles that have been in the way of the Massachusetts project, which has pitted coastal Indian tribes, business interest and homeowners against the developer, Cape Wind, and proponents of alternative energy. Frustrated by the failure of the two sides to broker an agreement, the Obama administration’s interior secretary, Ken Salazar, has promised to determine the fate of the project on his own this month. (On Friday a federal historic panel sent Mr. Salazar its recommendation that the government reject the Cape Wind Project.)
“We took the opposite approach of what Cape Wind did,” said Grover Fugate, the chief administrator of the Rhode Island project and the director of the state’s Coastal Resources Management Council.
Still, independent of the scientific study, Rhode Island has proposed two potential offshore sites — a $200 million eight-turbine project off Block Island, and a far bigger $1.5 billion farm in the eastern Rhode Island Sound — and has selected a preferred developer, Deepwater Wind.
In February, Gov. Donald L. Carcieri went so far as to suggest that the Block Island site was “on target to become the nation’s first offshore wind farm.”
Massachusetts counters that it is much further ahead. “We’ve been through all the state permits and we’re awaiting the final permits,” Ian Bowles, the state’s secretary of energy and environment, said in a recent interview.
Rhode Island has not secured permits, but it has trumpeted what Cape Wind so far lacks: a “power purchase” agreement with a utility company to buy what a farm generates. Yet on Wednesday, the state’s utility commission rejected that pact, which involved the proposed farm off Block Island, as too costly.
So for now, Cape Wind is poised to be first, said Matt Kaplan, a wind analyst at Emerging Energy Research, a firm that tracks emerging energy markets.
“If Cape Wind makes it through the permitting process, that is a major feat that no other offshore wind project has achieved in the U.S.,” he said. “However, power purchase agreements have been hard to secure.”
Officials consider a viable project as a source of energy and jobs, but the wind wars are also driven by state pride. “There is a rivalry to be the first state to have an offshore wind project in the nation,” Mr. Kaplan said. “And there is some embarrassment on the part of Massachusetts, having taken so long with Cape Wind.”
As Obamacare, particularly the exchanges, are modeled on Romneycare, this Boston Globe report on the Commonwealth's push back against medical cost increases has import for everyone:
Making good on Governor Deval Patrick’s promise to reject health insurance rate increases deemed excessive, the state Division of Insurance yesterday denied 235 of 274 increases proposed by insurers for plans covering individuals and small businesses.
The rulings, following a review process set in motion by emergency regulations Patrick filed in February, mark the first time the state has used its authority to turn down health premium increases. The action immediately sent ripples through the state health care industry.
Insurers said it would usher in an era of price controls, and vowed to appeal to the state or through the courts — a process that could drag on for months.
“We share the concern about rising health costs, but we don’t think government price controls will solve the problem,’’ said Jay McQuaide, vice president at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state’s largest health insurer.
But small businesses applauded the rejection of higher premiums, saying they can’t continue to endure rapidly escalating insurance bills, especially after the long economic downturn.
“Costs will double in four years if it keeps going on the same trend,’’ said Dennis Franson, whose two-person investment firm in Woburn was facing an 18 percent rate increase. “That’s unsustainable.’’
Insurance Commissioner Joseph G. Murphy found that most of the base rates proposed by state health plans were “unreasonable relative to the benefits provided,’’ according to a statement issued by the agency.
The rates were to have taken effect yesterday for thousands of businesses and individuals in the so-called small group market. That group, created by the state’s 2006 universal health care law, combines businesses employing up to 50 people with sole proprietors and self-employed people who previously bought insurance on their own or were uninsured.
Insurers proposed base rate increases averaging 8 percent to 32 percent for hundreds of separate products, offering different mixes of benefit designs, copays, and deductibles. On top of overall base rates, insurers often add extra costs for each business, adjusting for such things as geography, industry, and the size and age of a workforce. That can drive rates up significantly.
For now, premium rates established last year remain in effect. Because insurers send out bills four to six weeks in advance of the date policies take effect, companies or individuals that already made the new, higher payments will receive a refund or a credit from insurers ...
The Insurance Division, in letters to carriers, outlined reasons for the rate rejections. Among them were rate proposals that are significantly above the medical consumer price index — a consumer health care spending measure estimated at 4.8 percent — and proposals that failed to explain how insurers set different reimbursement rates.
Several proposals, including those from for-profit, out-of-state insurers such as Aetna, ConnectiCare, and United HealthCare, were approved after the companies worked with Insurance Division staffers on ways to reduce costs. Some of those approved called for increases above 4.8 percent, but insurers offered data justifying the increases, according to the state.
Insurers whose rates were rejected — most of which posted operating losses for 2009 due to job cuts at companies they sell plans to — received yesterday’s decision with anger.
“We’re very disappointed,’’ said McQuaide at Blue Cross-Blue Shield. “The rates we filed reflect expected medical costs of members buying our products. And we were surprised the disapprovals had no actuarial opinions, suggesting this was an arbitrary decision.’’
Lora Pellegrini, president of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, said her group was weighing all administrative and legal options with its members, which include nonprofits such as Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Tufts Health Plan, and Fallon Community Health Plan.
“If we’re not going to be allowed to have our prices cover our costs, that will be a problem for the whole industry,’’ she said.
But Jon B. Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, which represents 3,100 retailers and restaurants, said the rejections were justified.
“It’s welcome news on Main Street,’’ Hurst said. “They’re not hiring, and they’re seeing double-digit health premium increases every year. The real message is that a line in the sand has been drawn. And big health care in the state has got to get out of its alternative universe.’’
Insurers have up to 15 days to request appeal hearings at the Insurance Division, Murphy said in an interview. Such public hearings would be complex, lasting from a few days to a week. They would examine rate increases proposed for various products, and hearing officers would have 30 days to make their rulings. If the appeals are rebuffed, insurers can go to Superior Court.
Carriers also have the option of filing new rate requests with more modest increases, which would require a 30-day review.
As of now, however, the old rates remain in effect, and insurers must honor the plans they sold.
Several health care industry officials said that as a result of the state’s stance, insurers will probably take a tougher position with hospitals and other health care providers when current contracts expire, in an effort to limit reimbursements.
It pays to be ahead of the curve and have done the right thing. States that already provide an extensive health care safety net will have to do less to bring all the new uninsured into the system than the generally GOP states that did not. NY Times:
Because of the new health care law, Arizona lawmakers must now find a way to maintain insurance coverage for 350,000 children and adults that they slashed just last week to help close a $2.6 billion budget deficit.
Louisiana officials say a reduction in federal money to hospitals that treat the uninsured under the bill could be a death knell for their state-run charity hospital system.
In California, policymakers estimate they will have to come up with an additional $500 million a year to make necessary increases in payments to Medicaid providers.
Across the country, state officials are wading through the minutiae of the health care overhaul to understand just how their governments will be affected. Even with much still to be digested, it is clear the law may be as much of a burden to some state budgets as it is a boon to uninsured consumers.
States with the largest uninsured populations, like Texas and California, might be considered by its backers the biggest winners to emerge from the law, because so many additional residents will have access to health insurance. But because those states are being required to significantly expand their Medicaid programs, they are precisely the ones that will face the biggest financial strains, in many cases magnified by existing budget shortfalls.
“The federal government has to account for states’ inability to sustain our current programs, much less expand,” said Kim Belshé, secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency.
In contrast, states like Massachusetts and Wisconsin, which already have extensive health care safety nets, do not expect to spend much more money, while still taking in billions in federal grants.
In Massachusetts, for example, which already has a form of universal coverage, the federal government will wind up taking over from the state a significantly larger share of the costs of Medicaid coverage for adults without children, officials said.
“On balance, it’s definitely a gain,” said JudyAnn Bigby, secretary of the Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services.
Supporters of the new law have argued that states will benefit from efforts to slow health care inflation and billions of dollars in new federal spending on subsidies for the uninsured and on an array of programs like community health centers.
But even with more federal help, the challenge for states like Alabama, Arkansas and Texas that now offer only limited Medicaid coverage will be substantial. In these states, Medicaid has been mostly restricted to low-income families with children, pregnant women, certain people with disabilities and some elderly. The income cutoffs have also been extremely low.
The NY Times magazine has a long piece on Scott Brown. Here's a taste:
Like so many politicians who have presented themselves as folk heroes, Scott Brown is a lot more complicated. He’s a real estate lawyer with a dozen years in the Massachusetts State Legislature — not exactly a career politician, but not an outsider either — and two spacious homes, one on a leafy cul-de-sac in the Boston suburb of Wrentham, Mass., the other about four blocks from the Atlantic in Rye, N.H. He’s indisputably self-made and indeed something of a he-man, but with a background that’s part Horatio Alger, part Zoolander. The Cosmo article came toward the start of a long, lucrative modeling career, and it was hardly his last voyage as a showboat.
Yesterday's decision by one set of Obama Justice Dept lawyers that Bush Admin Lawyers Used "Flawed Reasoning" On Torture But Weren't Guilty Of Professional Misconduct (and which also overturned a previous set of Obama Justice Dept lawyers' decision) is, not surprisingly, generating controversy. The Wash Post:
A Justice Department decision to reject sanctions against Bush-era lawyers who approved harsh treatment of terrorism suspects provoked a heated exchange among legal experts Saturday over whether the lawyers' actions had constituted unethical conduct or violated professional standards.
Analysts divided bitterly on that question, but the torrent of commentary, unleashed by a senior department official's decision to discard the recommendations of ethics investigators in the case of John C. Yoo and Jay S. Bybee, underscored the murkiness of disciplining lawyers.
Even the ruling, written by Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis and made public Friday, pointed to the malleability of the law and judgments about legal ethics.
"In the hands of capable attorneys, virtually every fact cuts both ways," Margolis wrote. He noted that the two sides -- lawyers defending Yoo and Bybee and ethics investigators -- had accused each other of the same faulty reasoning and preordained bias, and that ethics investigators had repeatedly shifted their own analysis during the course of the probe.
Advocates on both ends of the political spectrum continued to make their case Saturday, with conservatives praising the Margolis decision as a righteous vindication for the government employees, who strained to reach quick legal decisions with the nation's security seemingly on the line after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes.
"Analyzing the quality of legal products out of context is utterly ridiculous," said David B. Rivkin Jr., a former Justice Department and White House lawyer for Republican administrations.
In contrast, Yale University law professor Jack M. Balkin summed up his thoughts in an online posting titled "Justice Department will not punish Yoo and Bybee because most lawyers are scum anyway."
"It's not about what people should do, but about how badly they have to screw things up before they are subject to professional sanctions," Balkin wrote. "This is how the American legal profession simultaneously polices and takes care of its own."
At issue are the sometimes vague standards for professional competence that lawyers must meet. Watchdogs generally focus on basic concepts, such as meeting deadlines and protecting clients' money, four experts said. Rarely, the experts said, are lawyers scrutinized for judgment calls, such as how broadly the constitution and legal precedent inhibit presidential authority, a question that was at the heart of the Yoo and Bybee memos ...
An agreement to tax high-cost, employer-sponsored health insurance plans, announced with fanfare by the White House and labor unions last month, is losing support from labor leaders, who say the proposal is too high a price to pay for the limited health care package they expect to emerge from Congress.
But the White House is still urging Congress to adopt the excise tax as a way to help pay for President Obama’s ambitious health care proposals.
With support for the tax eroding, Congressional leaders are searching for alternative sources of revenue.
The search has some urgency because Mr. Obama has said he hopes House and Senate Democrats can resolve their differences and come up with a final version of the legislation before he convenes a bipartisan meeting on the issue on Feb. 25.
When the tax agreement was announced on Jan. 14, White House officials described it as a breakthrough that would help clear the way for passage of sweeping health legislation.
Besides producing a substantial amount of revenue, they said, the excise tax on the most expensive insurance plans would slow the growth of health costs by giving consumers a powerful incentive to shop for cheaper policies.
Under the agreement, which builds on a provision in the larger health bill passed by the Senate on Dec. 24, the federal government would impose a 40 percent tax on the value of employer-sponsored health coverage exceeding certain thresholds. To win the endorsement of labor leaders, White House officials agreed to changes in the tax that would lessen its impact on workers, including union members with collectively bargained health benefits.
But labor leaders have backed away from the proposal in the wake of the special Senate election in Massachusetts.
“I do not believe there will be an excise tax enacted,” said Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America. “It appears that the administration and Congress will be taking a much more modest approach to health care reform. The cost and value of such reform would not justify using an excise tax.”
A wide range of House Democrats continue to criticize the tax as bad policy, even with the changes negotiated by labor leaders and the White House.
Moreover, House Democrats said, the tax is bad politics because it would set the middle class against the poor — people struggling to keep health insurance against people struggling to get it.
Revenue raised by the tax would help finance coverage for people who are uninsured.
Reid H. Cherlin, a White House spokesman, said he was not aware of any erosion in support for the tax among administration officials.
“The president,” he said, “continues to believe that charging insurance companies a fee for their most expensive polices — an idea that has the support of experts from both parties — will help achieve the core goal of health insurance reform: putting downward pressure on long-term health costs while ensuring that we aren’t placing new burdens on hard-working middle-class families.”
But as a practical matter, labor leaders said, the excise tax was killed by the election in Massachusetts, where the Republican candidate, Scott Brown, won the Senate seat long held by Edward M. Kennedy.
In opinion polls and in conversations with lawmakers, Massachusetts voters expressed deep hostility to the excise tax.
Members of union households voted for Mr. Brown over his Democratic opponent, Martha Coakley, according to a telephone poll conducted on election night for the A.F.L.-C.I.O. He won 49 percent of the vote from union households, while she got 46 percent, the survey found.
Michael A. Podhorzer, deputy political director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said Massachusetts should be a warning to Democrats, like “a canary in a coal mine.”
“Fully 42 percent of voters believed the health care bill would tax employer health benefits, and these voters supported Brown by two to one,” Mr. Podhorzer said.
Brown is definitely going to be a different kind of Republican. Milford Daily News:
U.S. Senator-elect Scott Brown said yesterday he was frustrated with the pace of the state's economic stimulus spending, charging that Gov. Deval Patrick had not been putting the money to work fast enough.
"The governor has a lot of stimulus money, and he hasn't released it," Brown said.
The Wrentham Republican said he would meet with Patrick tomorrow and "respectfully suggest" that the state deploy spending under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act more quickly.
Brown's remarks, his most direct criticism of Patrick since the Senate election a week ago, came after a meeting with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, whose successful re-election effort last year Brown said he had offered to endorse.
Patrick has repeatedly emphasized the positive economic impacts of stimulus spending, holding many public events around the state to showcase stimulus projects even as debate swirls over whether the spending is adding jobs or just papering over state government deficits.
The governor said yesterday that Brown had his facts wrong, and said the administration had decided to slow down spending on projects where waiting could leverage additional funding and more jobs.
Patrick's campaign rival Charles Baker, who has ripped the handling of stimulus funds before, said the state lagged last year in disseminating the cash.
"We should be moving as aggressively as we possibly can to get that money out the door to get people back to work," Baker said.
In October, Patrick said the stimulus money had "created or retained" 23,533 jobs.
Patrick spokesman Kyle Sullivan said state agencies had awarded $3.1 billion of the $4.3 billion they have received under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and spent $2.4 billion of that.
Direct benefits like unemployment insurance, nutrition assistance and Medicaid have received $1.7 billion of that pool, and $675 million has gone toward programs and infrastructure projects through state agencies, Sullivan said.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo had brought up stimulus management with Patrick recently and is "watching closely," said Seth Gitell, a DeLeo spokesman. "He raised a question about the pace of the stimulus spending."
The administration has worked to rebut an Oct. 1 letter from U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman David Oberstar that found the Bay State 49th in the country in putting highway stimulus money to work.
Sullivan said the state ranks ninth in percentage of announced funds for aggregated categories, second in the country for number of units weatherized, and fifth in percentage of tax credit assistance funds committed.
The Brown-Menino event was one of several the senator-elect has held with leading Democrats in recent days.
Speaking to reporters at the Parkman House on Beacon Street, Brown said he and Menino discussed summer jobs for teens and port security, and both pledged to work together despite partisan differences.
"It was a tsunami, that's what it was," Menino said of Brown's election. "It just got rolling, and it was very difficult to stop. He had the best TV ads; he just had the momentum."
Brown aides said the date of his swearing-in remained unclear, although Feb. 11 is considered one possibility.
Brown said, "I don't even have a business card yet."
The senate special election in Massachusetts was, for reasons that have been articulated on this site and others, a complete disaster. The Coakley campaign was hopelessly inept. The White House didn’t step in until too late. An insurgent tea party fringe was too much to beat back.
It was also, however, the first electoral test of the operation that’s designed, in part, to overcome these sorts of situations: Organizing for America, the skeleton of Barack Obama’s campaign apparatus that morphed into the Democratic National Committee’s grassroots arm. Since its debut this time last year, the group has focused almost exclusively on health care reform; it also sent out a few emails on behalf of Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Virginia and New Jersey.
Once Martha Coakley’s peril became apparent, OFA went into emergency rescue mode, sending many of its top operatives to Boston and mobilizing chapters across the country to place calls into the state. It wasn’t enough to save Coakley’s candidacy, but it might have saved the Democrats from an even more embarrassing defeat. And, crucially for future races, this first outing tells us a few things about what OFA is doing right, and what it’s doing wrong. <Continue reading.>
The defeat of Martha Coakley in last week’s special election to fill the Senate seat that was long held by Edward M. Kennedy has reignited the debate over whether there is a glass ceiling for women in Massachusetts politics.
“Welcome to liberal Massachusetts — we’re not,” said Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic political consultant. “And if you didn’t believe it before, anyone who thinks that Massachusetts is liberal in light of Tuesday’s results need only look at the record and lack of success women have had in Massachusetts politics. That should just put it away for good.”
For decades, women have been unable to gain a solid political toehold in Massachusetts, a state long dominated by male political figures. Five women in Massachusetts’s history — including Ms. Coakley, the attorney general — have been elected to statewide constitutional office, and four have been elected to the House of Representatives.
Currently, the only women to hold high elective office are Ms. Coakley, Representative Niki Tsongas and the State Senate president, Therese Murray.
“Women in Massachusetts have had a hard time winning statewide office and holding it if they got it,” said Dan Payne, a Democratic strategist. One reason, he said, is that there are not enough women running at lower political levels to move up.
Ms. Murray, the first woman to be State Senate president and the 16th woman elected to the body since 1790, has been cultivating a network of politically involved women to run for local office or raise money for female candidates through forums and mentoring groups. And in Cambridge, the Barbara Lee Family Foundation analyzes the role of women in politics and writes guidebooks to help them get elected.
“I think the guys have done a better job with having a pipeline and a team effort in the past,” Ms. Murray said. “We’re in the process of making it strong for women, and we have to make it stronger.” But doing so has been particularly difficult ...
“For women to run, they have to break through the way things have been done,” said Ms. Hunt, who is also the Eleanor Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy at the Kennedy School.
Mr. Payne said he believed women had given Ms. Coakley a late push in her primary victory against three male opponents. But he said Ms. Coakley never mentioned her gender or that she would have been the state’s first female United States senator, while Scott Brown, her opponent, ran “a macho, testosterone campaign,” driving around the state in a pickup. (No tallies of the vote by gender were available.)
An interesting NY Times article about Obama's taking over the Democratic campaign system and how the White House is thinking about moving forward strategically. And by reading between the lines, you can also learn one of the reasons they think Martha Coakley lost: her campaign's polling was too optimistic, causing them to realize her troubles too late to turn the tide:
President Obama is reconstituting the team that helped him win the White House to counter Republican challenges in the midterm elections and recalibrate after political setbacks that have narrowed his legislative ambitions.Mr. Obama has asked his former campaign manager, David Plouffe, to oversee House, Senate and governor’s races to stave off a hemorrhage of seats in the fall. The president ordered a review of the Democratic political operation — from the White House to party committees — after last week’s Republican victory in the Massachusetts Senate race, aides said.
In addition to Mr. Plouffe, who will primarily work from the Democratic National Committee in consultation with the White House, several top operatives from the Obama campaign will be dispatched across the country to advise major races as part of the president’s attempt to take greater control over the midterm elections, aides said.
“We are turning the corner to a much more political season,” said David Axelrod, a senior adviser, who confirmed Mr. Plouffe’s role. “We are going to evaluate what we need to do to get timely intelligence and early warnings so we don’t face situations like we did in Massachusetts.”
As Mr. Obama prepares to deliver his State of the Union address on Wednesday and lay out his initiatives for the second year of his presidency, his decision to take greater control of the party’s politics signals a new approach. The White House is searching for ways to respond to panic among Democrats over the possible demise of his health care bill and a political landscape being reshaped by a wave of populism.
Improving tactical operations addresses only part of his challenge. A more complicated discussion under way, advisers said, is how to sharpen the president’s message and leadership style.
The reinforcement of the White House’s political operation has been undertaken with a sense of urgency since Tuesday, when a Republican, Scott Brown ... The White House was caught off guard when it became clear that Democrats were in danger of losing it, and by the time alarm bells sounded from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, it was too late.
The president summoned Mr. Plouffe to the Oval Office hours before the polls closed and asked him to assume the new role because of the implications the midterm elections hold. Mr. Plouffe built a reputation in 2008 as a master of the nuts and bolts of campaigns, and will assemble a team to provide unfiltered information that serves as an early-warning system so the White House and party officials know if a candidate is falling behind ...
The party is trying to become less reliant on polls conducted by candidates, which can often paint a too-rosy picture of the political outlook. The president’s leading pollster, Joel Benenson, will be among those conducting research for Mr. Plouffe, aides said, along with others who will divide the country by regions ...
“Our own political operation will be more rigorously in communication with the other elements, so we can compare notes,” Mr. Axelrod said. “What we learned from Massachusetts is that we need to be more assiduous about getting our own data and our own information so we have a better sense of where things stand.”
The White House intends to send Mr. Obama out into the country considerably more in 2010 than during his first year in office, advisers said, to try to rekindle the relationship he developed with voters during his presidential campaign.
His first big chance will come when he delivers his State of the Union address. Rather than unveil a laundry list of new initiatives, advisers said, Mr. Obama will try to reframe his agenda and how he connects it with public concerns. In particular, he will focus on how his ideas for health care, energy and financial regulation all fit into the broader economic mission of creating what he calls a “new foundation” for the country, the key words being “rescue, restore and rebuild.”
While presidents typically experience rough patches, this one is particularly challenging for Mr. Obama. Liberals have grown disenchanted with what they see as his unwillingness to fight harder for their causes; independents have been turned off by his failure, in their view, to change the way Washington works; and Republicans have become implacably hostile.
The long and messy legislative fight over health care is a leading example of how Mr. Obama has failed to connect with voters, advisers say, because he appeared to do whatever it would take to get a bill rather than explain how people could benefit.
“The process often overwhelmed the substance,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director. “We need to find ways to try to rise above the maneuvering.”
The discussion inside the White House includes at least two distinct debates: Should Mr. Obama assume a more populist or centrist theme in his message? And should the White House do what it takes to pass compromise legislation or should it force votes, which even if unsuccessful can be used to carry an argument against Republicans in the fall?
Long before Scott Brown hopped in his pickup truck and did the electoral equivalent of doughnuts on the White House lawn, President Obama’s political destiny, for better or worse, was tied more closely to Massachusetts than to any state but Illinois.
The so-called “hub of the universe” — cradle of celebrated presidents (Kennedy, Adams), losing nominees (Dukakis, Kerry), comedic slap fights (Leno, Conan) and Dunkin’ Donuts (munchkins, crullers) has always held an outsize view of its own prominence in the political cosmos and beyond.
But in the case of Mr. Obama’s adult history, it might actually be appropriate.
It was in Cambridge where Mr. Obama found early national recognition as the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review.
That speech — in Boston — put Mr. Obama on a trajectory that would make him the third African-American senator since Reconstruction (the Massachusetts Republican Ed Brooke was the first) and eventually land him in the White House (in no small part because of the state’s senior senator, Ted Kennedy).
In 2006, Mr. Obama’s political gurus David Axelrod and David Plouffe helped engineer the election of the Chicago native Deval Patrick as Massachusetts’ first African-American governor, which helped convince Mr. Obama that a black presidential candidate could achieve broad appeal among white voters across the country.
Not long before Mr. Kennedy died, Mr. Obama assured him that he would make health care a priority in the first year of his presidency, a tactical move that will be second-guessed for years.
As Mr. Obama enjoyed his summer vacation on Martha’s Vineyard — a few weeks after his clumsy embroilment in a dispute between a Cambridge police office and a Harvard professor — he received news of Mr. Kennedy’s death, an event that would rally supporters of the health care overhaul bill while setting in motion the sequence that could lead to its demise.
NY Times (watch the Town Hall):
President Obama, striking a no-retreat, no-surrender posture in the wake of his party’s humiliating defeat in the Massachusetts Senate race this week, vowed Friday to press on with his expansive domestic agenda — including a health care overhaul and tough new restrictions on banks — even if it meant he had to “take my lumps” from political critics.
Mr. Obama came to this Cleveland suburb for the second stop on his White House to Main Street Tour to spread the word that his administration is about jobs, jobs, jobs. With his approval rating down to about 50 percent, a bruising season of midterm elections ahead and Democrats reeling from the resounding note of disapproval in Massachusetts, the ordinarily cool and cerebral Mr. Obama sounded unusually defiant, even fiery, at a town hall-style question and answer session at Lorain County Community College here.
The president used the word “fight,” or some version of it, more than 20 times.
Mr. Obama vowed to “never stop fighting for policies that will help restore home values.” He promised that he was “not going to stop fighting to give our kids the best education possible.” He pledged he would not “stop fighting to give every American a fair shake,” to continue fighting for a new Consumer Protection Agency and for openness in government. And of course, Mr. Obama pledged to fight for jobs.
“So long as I have some breath in me, so long as I have the privilege of serving as your president, I will not stop fighting for you,” Mr. Obama said. “I will take my lumps. But I won’t stop fighting to bring back jobs here.”
The president’s appearance here comes one day after he picked an especially big fight, with Wall Street, by calling for new limits on banks that would prevent them from becoming too big to fail. He sounded as if he would relish it.
“It’s going to be a fight,” the president said, warming up to the crowd. “You watch. I guarantee you, when we start on financial regulatory reform, trying to change the rules to prevent what has caused so much heartache all across the country, there are people who are going to say, ‘Why is he meddling in government’ or ‘Why is he meddling in the financial industry? It’s another example of Obama being big government.’ No, I just want to have some rules in place so that when these guys make dumb decisions, you don’t end up having to foot the bill. That’s pretty straightforward. I don’t mind having a fight.”
Mr. Obama’s bellicose rhetoric carried echoes of his tone in the 2008 campaign. He is now trying to strike a more populist tone to tap into anger many Americans feel about bailouts on Wall Street while Main Street is suffering. At the same time, the White House is trying to frame the midterm elections on terms favorable to Mr. Obama, by casting him as someone who will stand with the little guy, even if those fighting words contrast with his image as a politician who cares about bringing people together.
“There will be a fulsome debate about who is fighting for Main Street and who is siding with the special interests,” said Dan Pfeiffer, Mr. Obama’s communications director, adding, “There is nothing inconsistent between trying to bring people together to solve problems and standing up to the insurers and the lobbyists.”
Mr. Obama’s shift in tone actually began last week, before Tuesday’s bruising loss in Massachusetts, when the president appeared before the House Democrats and warned that if Republicans want to “stand up for the status quo” and block his health care bill, “that is a fight I want to have.” He used a version of that language at the White House on Thursday in announcing his plan for restrictions on banks.
While here, Mr. Obama made a plea for the health care bill ... Conceding that the plan had “hit a little bit of a buzz saw this week,” Mr. Obama acknowledged that the process “has been less than pretty” and that the measure was so big and unwieldy it looked like “a monstrosity,” creating fear and anxiety among ordinary Americans. But he made the case that passing the measure was an imperative ...
Mr. Obama rode to office on the strength of his cool temperament, but in recent weeks, even some Democrats have questioned whether he appears too distant from voters. Earlier this week, in an interview with ABC, the president acknowledged that many Americans have a sense of “remoteness and detachment” from policy makers in Washington.
On Friday, Mr. Obama alluded to it again, saying it was “pretty easy to get a warped view of things” in Washington. With all the problems he faces in the capital, he sounded especially happy to be let loose for a few hours.
Warning signs a plenty in these results for Obama, the Dems and GOP. Though the first two haven't yet figured out their response, they at least realize they were being sent a message. The GOP, blinded by superficial, headline analysis, doesn't seem to realize they were being sent a message too. From the Wash Post (complete results):
Dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, antipathy toward federal-government activism and opposition to the Democrats' health-care proposals drove the upset election of Republican senatorial candidate Scott Brown in Massachusetts, according to a post-election survey of state voters.
The poll by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University's School of Public Health underscores how significantly voter anger has turned toward Democrats in Washington and how dramatically the political landscape has shifted during President Obama's first year in office.
The findings do not provide a political portrait of the entire country in the opening weeks of the 2010 election year. But given that Massachusetts has been reliably Democratic in presidential elections, the results of Tuesday's special Senate election and the reasons voters sided with Brown over Democrat Martha Coakley speak to broader shifts that have taken place across the country over the past year.
These changes were echoed in national polling and helped elect Republican governors in Virginia and New Jersey in November. Democrats have been put squarely on the defensive. Obama and Democratic leaders are looking for ways to alter the political dynamics in the hope of heading off potentially sizable losses in their congressional majorities in this November's elections.
Sixty-three percent of Massachusetts special-election voters say the country is seriously off track, and Brown captured two-thirds of these voters on Tuesday. In November 2008, Obama won decisively among the more than 80 percent of Massachusetts voters seeing the country as off-course.
Nearly two-thirds of Brown's supporters say their vote was intended at least in part to express opposition to the Democratic agenda in Washington, but few say the senator-elect should simply work to stop it. Three-quarters of those who voted for Brown say they would like him to work with Democrats to get Republican ideas into legislation in general; nearly half say so specifically about health-care legislation.
When Obama was elected, 63 percent of Massachusetts voters said government should do more to solve problems, according to exit polling. In the new poll, that number slipped to 50 percent, with 47 percent saying government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.
Like Obama, Coakley won the votes of more than 70 percent of those seeking government involvement, but the bigger pool of voters seeing government overreach helped Brown claim victory.
Health care topped jobs and the economy as the most important issue driving Massachusetts voters, but among voters for Brown, it was closely followed by the economy and jobs, and "the way Washington is working."
Overall, 43 percent of Massachusetts voters say they support the health-care proposals advanced by Obama and congressional Democrats; 48 percent oppose them. Among Brown's supporters, eight in 10 said they were opposed to the measures, 66 percent of them strongly so.
Sizable majorities of voters for Brown see the Democrats' plan, if passed, as making things worse for their families, the country and Massachusetts. Few Coakley voters see these negatives, and most of those backing her see clear benefits for the country if health-care reform becomes law. Less than half of Coakley's supporters say they or the state would be better off as a result.
Among Brown's supporters who say the health-care reform effort in Washington played an important role in their vote, the most frequently cited reasons were concerns about the process, including closed-door dealing and a lack of bipartisanship. Three in 10 highlighted these political maneuverings as the motivating factor; 22 percent expressed general opposition to reform or the current bill.
Voters for Coakley, by contrast, cited the need to cover the uninsured and fix the health-care system as the main reasons the issue drove their votes.
Massachusetts enacted a universal health-care plan several years ago, and the survey shows that it remains highly popular. Overall, 68 percent of the voters in Tuesday's election say they support the plan, including slightly more than half of those voting for Brown.
Obama also remains popular in Massachusetts. More than six in 10 of those who voted approve of his job performance, with 92 percent of Coakley's voters expressing satisfaction, along with 33 percent of Brown's. More than half of Brown's backers say Obama was not a factor in their vote.
But the Obama administration's policies draw some fire, with nearly half of all special-election voters either dissatisfied or angry about those initiatives. Three-quarters of Brown's supporters expressed the negative view.GOP policies prove even less popular, with 58 percent of Massachusetts voters saying they are dissatisfied or angry about what Republicans in Congress are offering. Among those voting for Brown, 60 percent give positive marks to the policies of congressional Republicans, but a sizable number, 37 percent, offer a negative appraisal.
The Massachusetts election brought another indication that the Obama coalition from 2008 has splintered, just as the results in gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey showed in November.
Compared with the 2008 presidential results, Coakley suffered significant erosion among whites, independents and working-class voters, according to the survey.
In Massachusetts, independents made up about half of Tuesday's electorate, according to the poll, and they supported Brown by nearly 2 to 1. Obama carried Bay State independents by 17 percentage points in 2008. Among those voting for Brown, 28 percent said they backed Obama over Republican John McCain.
Republican Scott Brown's victory in the Massachusetts Senate race was lifted by strong support from union households, in a sign of trouble for President Barack Obama and Democrats who are counting on union support in the 2010 midterm elections.
A poll conducted on behalf of the AFL-CIO found that 49% of Massachusetts union households supported Mr. Brown in Tuesday's voting, while 46% supported Democrat Martha Coakley. The poll conducted by Hart Research Associates surveyed 810 voters.
The finding, disclosed during an AFL-CIO conference call about the poll, represents a fresh problem for Democrats, who count on union leaders and union members as a pillar of the party's base.
Karen Ackerman, the AFL-CIO's political action director, said the results of the Massachusetts poll indicate "what we call a working-class revolt" in which voters were responding to the fact that no one was addressing their needs or interests. But she played down the support among union household members for Mr. Brown.
"Union voters are like any other voters, and they respond to the environment around them" and who they think will be on their side and fight for them, Ms. Ackerman said. "What happened in Massachusetts is that working families did not see the Democratic candidate as being on their side."
She added that the AFL-CIO has "very good success" reaching out to union voters and did have a union program in Massachusetts in support of the Democratic candidate, state Attorney General Martha Coakley. Still, she said the group does have concerns about the midterm congressional elections in November.
"Clearly, we're taking a serious look at this [working-class revolt] because, frankly, we know that 2010 elections are going to be very difficult," she said, adding that the group plans to move forward with a "very progressive political program."
The poll showed Ms. Coakley drew more support among voters with a college education, by a five-point margin, while she lost by a 20-point margin among voters without a college degree.
Guy Molyneux, a pollster with Hart Research Associates, said the poll showed "pretty strong evidence" of voters who worried the health-care overhaul moving through Congress would tax their employer-provided benefits, even though Mr. Obama had agreed to a deal that exempted workers in collective bargaining agreements until 2018. Unions stepped up their campaign efforts for Ms. Coakley after that, but it wasn't enough to turn the tide.
The AFL-CIO's pollster also said the election was more about the two specific candidates than about being a referendum on Mr. Obama or the national Democratic Party's agenda. By 61% to 33%, the voters polled said they were picking the best candidate for Massachusetts rather than sending a message to Washington. Nearly two-thirds of the voters who elected Mr. Brown said they wanted him to work with Democrats in Washington.
Whether you think Tuesday was a disaster or just a big bump on the road to be overcome, you have to agree that unless the Dems are complete morons (unfortunately, not beyond the realm of possibility), having these results now, 10 months before the mid-terms when there's still time to adjust, was, ironically, a lucky break.
Today, we're mourning the loss of a super-majority in the Senate. Without Brown's wake up call, on Nov 5th we would have likely been grieving over the loss of majority in both houses of Congress.
As a way to process Tuesday's election results, I spent lots of time yesterday on lots of news sites and blogs. There are way too many to excerpt as is normally done, so instead, here is my index to the best commentary and analysis out there.
How did it happen
The only "exit" poll I know of, from Research 2000:
Rick Holmes, a columnist for the suburban Boston Metro-West News thinks it was primarily Coakley's fault:
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) blames Obama for "health care's demise"
Michael Scherer of Time broadens that to encompass Obama's first year:
Nate Silver of 538.com builds on David Leonhardt's idea that Obama has pleased no one (and worse, angered many) by not countering the perception he's a progressive even while he pursued centrist policies:
Jonathan Chait of TNR is seeing Mass Hysteria so he argues that the CW is missing the real forces at play in the Mass election and suggests Obama needs to be like George Bailey during the panicked run on his bank in It's A Wonderlife Life:
Ezra Klein of the Wash Post uses a very different entertainment reference, Monty Python & the Holy Grail, to make the same point (and the comment a Republican submitted is also worth reading):
Jon Stewart hits the hysteria nail on the head:
Analysis of the results and what to do next:
Jonathan Chait next argues that no one should interpret the Mass results as any kind of referendum on health care:
Steven Pearlstein of the Wash Post argues the same thing as Chait and believes it's not over:
Ezra Klein suggests a radical way to move forward on health reformDemocrats could scrap the legislation and start over in the reconciliation process. But not to re-create the whole bill.
Ezra also warns the Dems if they abandon health care now, their base should rightly abandon them:
Tim Egan agrees the Dems need to get a spine and a much, much better mouth:They can cowboy up, pass health care that helps right the major wrongs of the system, and then explain what they’re doing.
On a more serious note, The NY Times editorial board offers very pointed advice to Obama & the Dems:It is indisputable that the Republicans have settled on a tactic of obstruction, disinformation and fear-mongering, but it is equally indisputable that the Democrats have not countered it well.
Amy Walter, writing in NationalJournal.com, suggests how the Dems can generally win back Independents:
Here are the reasons I believe Scott Brown won:
Here is the reason he did not win (no matter how the GOP spins it):
The most recent Va, NJ, and Ma elections, in fact, now join the similar 2008 and 2006 ones: all were 'throw the bum out' elections. The problem for the Dems is that they are now the bums. The Republicans should also check their unadulterated glee: they're the bums in plenty of places too.
From Skye, A Blue View reader:
Keep the faith! What we learn today may not be the win, but the caution. Martha Coakley will become an adjective - "Don't get Coakleyed!" - don't get whiplashed by the consequences of complacency. People tend to have to learn the hard way, and though you'd think Bush and Cheney and Palin were lessons enough, and though the costs of the lessons take it out of the most needy and most vulnerable, maybe this is what it will take to hold the mirror of shame up to the right wing, and to kick the righteous smugness out of the left wing. Maybe we will learn what Reinhold Niebuhr teaches, and what Obama knows, both as a scholar and as a black man: sober hope.
I was holding signs on a snowy exurban corner this morning, looking in the eyes of people who sneered and people who smiled. The people who smiled needed to see mine, too. In that exchange of glances, both hostile and open, was the story of flawed community, of visionary realism.
On to taking care of the business of life and nation even more challenging now, but even more compelling. And Obama is still our president. That we did. My children are better for it, and they still believe.
Thank you for your blog and your witness.
What do you think about the election? What lessons do you think Obama needs to take from the results? Add your comments to this post.
Special elections come and go. And the party that wins the White House one year ordinarily loses seats in the next Congressional election that comes along.
But what happened in Massachusetts on Tuesday was no ordinary special election.
Scott Brown, a Republican state senator for only five years, shocked and arguably humiliated the White House and the Democratic Party establishment by defeating Martha Coakley in the race for a United States Senate seat. He did it one day short of a year after President Obama stood on the steps of the United States Capitol, looking across a mass of faces that celebrated the potential of his presidency.
As a result, Mr. Obama will spend the first anniversary of his inauguration watching Democrats tangle in an unseemly quarrel over who lost Massachusetts — Ms. Coakley’s pollster, Celinda Lake, called the Huffington Post four hours before the polls closed to blame Democratic leaders in Washington — and contemplating a political landscape that has been thoroughly upended in the course of only 10 days.
The implications are sure to be far-reaching, and the result leaves Mr. Obama with a long list of tough choices.
Stripped of the 60th vote needed to block Republican filibusters in the Senate, will Mr. Obama now make further accommodations to Republicans in an effort to move legislation through Congress with more bipartisanship, even at the cost of further alienating liberals annoyed at what they see as his ideological malleability?
Or will he seek to rally his party’s base through confrontation, even if it means giving up on getting much done this year?
Will he find a way to ram his health care bill through Congress quickly in the wake of the Massachusetts loss, so that his party can run on a major if controversial accomplishment? Or will he heed the warnings of Republicans, and now some Democrats, that to do so would be to ignore the message of Tuesday’s election, with its clear overtones of dissatisfaction with the administration’s approach so far?
It is not just questions of policy: for Mr. Obama and the Democrats, already worried about the coming midterm elections, the results could hardly have been more distressing. States do not come more Democratic than Massachusetts, the only one that voted for George McGovern over Richard Nixon in 1972, a fact that older residents still recount with fresh pride. By challenging the legacy of Edward M. Kennedy, the holder of the contested seat for 46 years and a liberal icon, the Republican victory could only be dispiriting to the left.
Most ominously, independent voters — who embraced Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign and are an increasingly critical constituency — seemed to have fled to Mr. Brown in Massachusetts, as they did to Republicans in races for governor in Virginia and New Jersey last November. It is hard not to view that as a repudiation of the way Mr. Obama and Democratic Congressional leaders have run things.
“This is a giant wake-up call,” said Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman who lost a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor in Virginia last year. “We have to keep our focus on job creation. Everything we have to do is related to job creation. We have to do a much better job on the message. People are confused on what this health care bill is going to do.”
Even before the polls closed, the White House was suggesting the outlines of a recovery strategy, a combination of a more populist tone and an embrace of greater fiscal responsibility.
At least, that's the message the headline writers at the Boston Globe (a good proxy for the MSM) think was sent (me, I'm not so sure):
Angry Massachusetts voters sent Washington a ringing message yesterday: Enough.
Voter anxiety and resentment, building for months in a troubled economy, exploded like a match on dry kindling in the final days of the special election for US Senate. In arguably the most liberal state in the nation, a Republican - and a conservative one at that - won and will crash the Bay State’s all-Democratic delegation with a mandate to kill the health care overhaul pending in Congress.
It is difficult to overstate the significance of Scott Brown’s victory because so much was at stake. From the agenda of President Obama and the legacy of the late Edward M. Kennedy to a referendum on the Democratic monopolies of power on Capitol and Beacon hills, voters in a lopsidedly Democratic state flooded the polls on a dreary winter day to turn conventional wisdom on its head.
Brown, an obscure state senator with an unremarkable record when he entered the race four months ago, was a household name across the country by the end of the abbrevi ated campaign. Running a vigorous, smart, and error-free campaign, he became a vessel into which cranky and worried voters poured their frustrations and fears, ending the Democrats’ grip on a Senate seat the party has held for 58 years, nearly all by two brothers named Kennedy.
Voters were demonstrably unsentimental about keeping alive the spirit of the late Ted Kennedy in electing the next senator. His widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, tried to bolster the sagging candidacy of Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley in the closing days, to little effect.
Brown’s upset triumph is certain to send shockwaves well beyond the state’s borders and into the fall midterm elections, and will rattle Beacon Hill, where Democrats have absolute power and Governor Deval Patrick is an unpopular incumbent as he faces reelection this November.
To be sure, Brown was the beneficiary of the blundering campaign of his opponent, Coakley, who blew a 31-point lead in two months, according to one poll. But in electing Brown, a large segment of the electorate declared that there is little appetite for near-universal national health care, the chief domestic policy initiative of Obama, who carried the state by 26 percentage points only 14 months ago.
Brown skillfully made the election a referendum on the issue, nationalizing the race when he repeatedly said he would be the 41st vote in the Senate, enough for the GOP to block the Democrats’ bill. Money poured in from around the country. His campaign had an initial budget of $1.2 million but eventually spent $13 million, about $12 million of which came in via the Internet, a campaign official said last night.
Massachusetts passed its own expensive prototype version of universal health care in 2006 and Brown argued that a national version would come at the Bay State’s expense. Obama’s appearance on the stump in Boston Sunday to prop up Coakley had no apparent effect on the outcome.
The tinderbox climate in the state was so hospitable that when Brown declared his support for waterboarding - simulated drowning used in interrogating terrorist suspects - Coakley and liberal Democrats barely protested.
GOP Senator-elect Scott Brown said last night that he wants to be sworn in without delay, but no firm schedule for his installation had been set last night, and if the Senate follows its typical procedures, he might not be installed until Feb. 3.
Although the two-week delay could give Democrats in Congress time to devise a strategy for passing health care before Brown arrives, some Democrats were balking at such a move last night, saying it would further erode voter confidence in the majority party. Brown, who has vowed to vote against the health care bill, would give the GOP enough votes - 41 - to stop the final version of the legislation from coming to the Senate floor, effectively killing it ...
Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin, however, pledged yesterday before the polls closed that he would move swiftly to ensure the seat vacated by the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy is filled by the new senator.
“I am going to do everything that I can to give the winner, whoever that winner is, the credentials they need as soon as possible,’’ Galvin said yesterday. “I’m not going to sacrifice my reputation for any race of any kind.’’
Following the election, Massachusetts law allows for an additional 10 days for absentee ballots to arrive and be tabulated, as long as they are postmarked by the day of the election. Then there is a five-day period to allow the secretary of state to certify the vote. After that, Governor Deval Patrick will have to weigh in, according to the election statutes.
“After such delivery, the governor, with at least five councilors, shall examine the copies,’’ the law states. “They shall tabulate said votes and determine who appear to be elected.’’
However, it is possible that a large margin of victory could accelerate the process for Brown.
Galvin said earlier yesterday that if the margin were overwhelming - far exceeding the number of absentee ballots still to be counted - and there appeared to be no chance of a recount, he would immediately send a letter to the Senate informing it of the unofficial winner. That could allow the Senate to suspend its rules, which stipulate that only after the vote is officially certified can a lawmaker be given the oath of office.
There is no guarantee that the secretary of the Senate will accept anything but the official certification.
Galvin took the speedier route when Representative Niki Tsongas, a Democrat of Lowell, won a special election in 2007 and was sworn in before the vote was officially certified. But he said that the Senate’s rules are more rigid than the House’s. The president pro tem of the Senate, Vice President Joe Biden, would have to administer the oath.
Nevertheless, some Republicans are insisting that Brown be sworn in before the official certification ... Democratic leaders appear to want to follow procedure. “When there is a certified winner in Massachusetts, the Senate has received appropriate papers, and the vice president is available, the successor to Senators Kennedy and [Paul] Kirk will be sworn in,’’ said Jim Manley, an aide to Senate majority leader Harry Reid.
It all comes down to turn out. If enough progressives and Dems get out to vote, Coakley will win. Take some of that nervous energy and channel it into something positive: pick up the phone and start calling your friends.
The Fix provides a useful list:
Voters are voting in Massachusetts! Polls in the Commonwealth are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. and conventional wisdom has gelled that state Sen. Scott Brown (R) enters election day as the slight favorite to pull an upset of massive proportions over state Attorney General Martha Coakley (D). As always in an election, there things we know and things we don't know. Here's a look at a few of the most critical knowns/unknowns.
What We Know: Independents are breaking heavily for Brown. What We Don't: By how much can Coakley afford to lose independents given the state's strong Democrat leanings? 60-40? 65-35?
What We Know: Democratic intensity/interest in the special election has improved considerably over the last few days. What We Don't: Does the fact that loyal Democrats are now more keen on turning out to vote make Coakley more competitive? Or are these people who would never have voted for Brown anyway?
What We Know: Millions -- upon millions -- of dollars have poured into Brown's campaign account over the past 10 days. What We Don't: With television time entirely sold out, can Brown smartly spend those dollars on get out the vote efforts? Or will millions go wasted simply because the financial piece of the race broke too late?
What We Know: National Democrats with a major assist from organized labor are going all out from an organizational perspective -- they have taken over every aspect of Coakley's campaign -- to save this race. What We Don't: Is everything national Democrats are doing too little, too late? Can organizational might save what has been, to put it mildly, a campaign with deep messaging problems?
What We Know: The broad swath of polling released over the last few days suggests that Brown has the momentum. What We Don't: How reliable any of this polling is given that there is no historical parallel for a Senate special election in January, making it extremely difficult to figure out who will vote and who won't vote.
ALSO NOTE: The Fix will be covering the heck out of the Massachusetts Senate race today so check back regularly for updates. Also, check out the Fix Twitter feed for more instantaneous updating.
Except for being pro-choice, he's a straight line conservative, according to the NY Times:
Mr. Brown has promised to be the 41st vote against the health care bill, which could be a damaging blow for the legislation after months of protracted debate. He has said that Massachusetts has already addressed coverage needs in the state’s 2006 legislation, and has criticized a federal bill as too costly.
Earning the support of the antitax Tea Party constituents, Mr. Brown has built his campaign on a platform of reducing taxes.
Mr. Brown opposes same-sex marriage, and in 2007 he voted to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.
Mr. Brown narrowly won his State Senate seat in 2004 in a special election when his predecessor, Cheryl Jacques, left to become president of the Human Rights Campaign. Three years earlier, he had enraged gay rights activists by saying that it was “not normal” for Ms. Jacques, who is a lesbian, to have a baby with her partner.
A lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard, Mr. Brown supports waterboarding as an interrogation technique for terrorism suspects, and opposes civilian trials for them. He supports President Obama’s troop increase in Afghanistan.
He does not support a federal cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions, because of concerns over its cost, even though he once voted for a similar program in Massachusetts.
He has opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants and urged strengthening border enforcement and penalizing companies that hire illegal immigrants. The National Rifle Association gave him an A (and his opponent, Martha Coakley, an F) for his voting records opposing gun control.
He supports abortion rights, with a caveat: he is against the procedure known to opponents as partial birth abortion and advocates strongly for parental consent.
As a former model and actor (according to his Web site, he still has his Equity card), Mr. Brown seems as comfortable in the spotlight as his wife, Gail Huff, who is a local television reporter. They have been married for 23 years and have two daughters who have campaigned alongside him.
Though he likes to claim he's an independent guy, the evidence is mounting that he's a Sarah Palin Republican ... and draws strength from the same misogynistic, racist pool of supporters as she does. Joan Vennochi (for examples of what she is writing about, see Brown Supporters Get Physical With "Billionaires For Scott Brown" and Scott Brown Supporters Call Martha Coakley Supporters NAZIS Outside of Obama Rally):
Scott Brown is running for U.S. Senate as a pleasant guy in a pickup truck. But a mean spirit drives some of his campaign.
At a West Springfield rally on Sunday, a Brown supporter yelled out “Shove a curling iron up her butt’’. The remark was a crude reference to Brown’s opponent, Attorney General Martha Coakley, who was criticized in a recent Boston Globe story for failing to aggressively prosecute a sexual abuse case involving a curling iron.
After that charming rallying cry, a video clip shows Brown grinning and saying, “We can do this.’’
A campaign spokesman said the Republican state senator didn’t hear what was said and was merely giving his standard stump reply. But if Brown didn’t hear it then, shouldn’t he - especially as the father of two daughters - be outraged now ?
Instead, when Sen. John F. Kerry called upon Brown to curb his supporters, a Brown campaign spokesman replied “People are tired of John Kerry’s partisan politics. His baseless accusations reflect the desperate last gasps of a flailing campaign.’’
If Brown isn’t outraged by the crudeness of the curling iron remark, you would think Massachusetts voters would be. But so far, they’re more outraged by Coakley’s misstatement on a radio show that ex-Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling is a “Yankee fan’’, as in the evil empire, New York ball club.
Coakley is accountable for her record as a prosecutor - and for her campaign mistakes. But her opponent should also be accountable for the unpleasant rhetoric that some of his supporters are embracing in the last hours of this hard-fought campaign.
Messages posted on Coakley’s campaign Facebook include these vicious sentiments: “Scott Brown should rape Martha Coakley and then deny her emergency contraception’’. “Martha Coakley getting raped would complete my life.’’ “Abortion is wrong. Kill her.’’ After one message that states “Looking forward to the rally Friday, Martha,’’ a woman named Amelia Bosley writes:“Hope she gets shot.’’ Imagine putting your name to that in the name of political change.
According to Coakley campaign spokeswoman Alex Zaroulis, some Brown supporters surrounded Coakley’s car on Saturday in Gloucester and yelled “You suck.’’
On Monday, a Brown supporter in Pittsfield lay down on the road in front of Coakley’s car, Zaroulis said.
Brown should answer for some of the ugliness, which is reminscent of the misogynist attacks directed at Hillary Clinton when she was running for president.
Yet, somehow Coakley is getting all the blame for the tenor of their bitter showdown. Yes, she ran negative ads - and bad ones at that. But, Brown supporters put up the first negative ad, which distorted a statement Coakley made about taxes. Brown said he wished the ad would go away, but did nothing to make that happen. Will not-my-problem be his attitude in Washington?
Brown backers say they are voting for change. Instead, they are supporting a slick, packaged politician who is happy to manipulate them.There’s nothing new about that.
Brown appeared at Monday’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast for a purely political photo-op. Then, Brown called out Coakley for giving a political speech at the event.
He hid behind his daughters rather than admit the truth. He did sponsor an amendment that would have allowed emergency medical personnel to deny emergency contraception to rape victims. If he believes in that principle, he should acknowledge it. Who will he hide behind in Washington?
The polls are reportedly breaking Brown’s way and he may win. The only way to stop him is to get out and vote for Coakley.
Turnout is key. The Democrat’s best hope is a strong ground game.That’s the picture Brown is trying to paint. It isn’t pretty, like a lot of his campaign
That’s why Brown supporters are trying to suppress the vote, by bullying and making Coakley supporters believe the cause is hopeless.
The Wash Post:
Democrat Martha Coakley's struggle to stave off a potentially devastating defeat in Tuesday's special Senate election in Massachusetts marks a critical turning point in the year-long debate about health-care reform. Regardless of the outcome of the race, the two parties appeared headed toward a monumental clash over the issue in the coming midterm elections.
A victory by state Sen. Scott Brown, who was given little chance of winning only a few weeks ago, would give Republicans 41 votes in the Senate and further embolden them to challenge the core of President Obama's agenda. Democrats could face an internal battle over how or even whether to proceed with the legislation, as well as how to deal with the issue in the fall races.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sought to head off possible talk of retreat, vowing to press ahead with the legislation. "There is no 'back to the drawing board,' " she told reporters Monday in San Francisco. She said there will be a final health-care bill "one way or the other."
But Republicans were warning of a political backlash if Democrats proceed in the face of a Brown victory ...
Despite the general opposition to the legislation in this and other polls, Democrats reiterated Monday their belief that, once the politically debilitating debate ends, they can turn health-care reform into a winning issue. Their strategy is to make a populist argument that they say will put Republicans on the defensive for opposing politically popular measures designed to check the power of insurance companies.
"The only way to win this debate is to get the bill passed and implement it," White House senior adviser David Axelrod said. He said that public fears about the legislation are "based on a caricature" that will disappear once people learn more about the benefits. "That's the case we're going to make," he said ...
"The Democrats' argument to date has been 'Okay, these are bad numbers, but it's the sausage making, and if they pass the bill they can reframe it and be better off,' " said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster whose firm has done the surveys for Brown. Sounding bullish about Massachusetts, he added: "I am coming to a different conclusion today than I would have last week. This bill has now been rejected by the American public."
Democrats are determined to prove that assertion wrong, by either a Coakley victory in Massachusetts or a major public relations effort this year. But the outcome in Massachusetts now stands as the marker that lawmakers in both parties will use to assess the politics of the issue that has gripped the country for so long.
Do you know any Progressives who have been so bothered by Obama and his pragmatism and willingness to compromise, that they've lost interest and tuned out? I bet many of these purists were also so upset with the "watered down" Senate health reform bill, that they called for its rejection too.
If you do know any such folks, and they live in Massachusetts, you need to let them know that unless they get over it by tomorrow, their disaffection may force the House to accept the Senate bill as is. Here's the NY Times:
With the Massachusetts special election for United States Senate increasingly unpredictable, Democrats in Washington are contemplating a fall-back plan to advance far-reaching health care legislation, even if a Republican victory on Tuesday deprives Senate Democrats of the crucial 60th vote they need to overcome filibusters.
For the moment, at least, the preferred Plan B would be to try to persuade House Democrats to approve the health care bill that the Senate adopted on Christmas Eve, obviating the need for an additional Senate vote and sending the measure directly to President Obama for his signature, administration officials and Congressional aides said on Sunday.
House Democrats have expressed complaints about the Senate legislation, and Congressional leaders and top White House officials, including Mr. Obama, worked last week to negotiate various compromises.
Over all, however, the bills are similar, if not identical, on a vast majority of issues. For supporters of the health care overhaul, the complaints with the Senate bill may seem minor compared with the prospect of outright defeat of the legislation, the president’s top domestic initiative, and the thought of Republicans’ using a health care failure to clobber Democrats in this fall’s midterm elections.
Aides said that the Democrats could move forward with the Senate-passed bill and then push through a raft of changes during the upcoming federal budget process.
If rank-and-file House Democrats balk, party leaders have other options. They could try to pass a revised health care bill in the Senate before the new Massachusetts senator is sworn in. Or they could try to use a procedural tactic known as budget reconciliation that would require only 51 votes.
But there is little appeal in those choices. Rushing a bill through the Senate would prompt howls from Republicans and accusations of foul play. And budget reconciliation would most likely require scaling back the scope of the health care changes.
From a political and public relations standpoint, officials said it seemed better for House Democrats to step forward and make the case that approving the Senate bill would be better than having no health care bill.
A House Democratic aide said the House view of the Senate bill had not changed. “We are working toward a compromise bill,” the aide said.
The Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” warned that health care would be a political weapon under any circumstances.
“I think the politics are toxic for the Democrats either way,” Mr. McConnell said.
Yesterday on the campaign trail, from the Boston Globe:
President Obama, putting his political capital on the line, swept into town yesterday to bolster Martha Coakley’s campaign in the final days of an extraordinarily and unexpectedly tight US Senate race, saying that a Democratic victory tomorrow is vital to moving his agenda forward.
"Understand what’s at stake here, Massachusetts. It’s whether we’re going forward or going backwards,’’ Obama told a capacity crowd of 1,500 Coakley supporters at a Northeastern University gymnasium. “I can’t do it alone. I need leaders like Martha by my side so we can kick it into high gear, so we can finish what we’ve started.’’
The stakes for Obama are significant, as he tries to preserve Edward M. Kennedy’s long-held Senate seat for Democrats and deflect the sudden and unexpectedly strong candidacy of state Senator Scott Brown, who would become the 41st Republican in the US Senate and give the party the filibuster power it needs to derail the president’s health care over haul ...
The Republican - who has made much of the fact that he owns a pickup truck with 200,000 miles on it - rallied the crowd with one of the frequent refrains of his campaign: “I’m Scott Brown, I’m from Wrentham, I drive a truck, and I’m asking for your vote.’’
Obama, in a reference to that Brown campaign line, told the crowd at the Boston rally: “You’ve got to look under the hood.’’
During his 25-minute speech, Obama criticized Brown’s record, saying that the state senator has voted with Republicans 96 percent of the time and that it would be “hard to suggest’’ he would be independent from the Republican agenda.
Obama also cast the Massachusetts election in stark terms regarding the future of the Democratic agenda, including the health care reform plan, which Coakley supports and Brown does not.
States do not get much more Democratic than Massachusetts. Democrats hold every statewide office and control both houses of the legislature with lopsided majorities. The state’s entire Congressional delegation is Democratic.
But Massachusetts does not always live up to its national stereotype as a bastion of liberalism. Yes, it was the only state to vote for George McGovern for president in 1972, but it also voted twice for Ronald Reagan. Democratic enrollment has fallen from 48 percent of the electorate in 1984 to 37 percent last year. And thanks largely to votes from independent voters in the suburbs, Massachusetts was led by Republican governors for 16 straight years, until Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, broke the streak with his 2006 landslide election. Now Mr. Patrick is dealing with slipping approval ratings as he seeks re-election.
In tough times like these, the political hegemony of the Democrats has its risks.
“The Democrats are controlling both Washington and Beacon Hill,” said Joseph Malone, a Republican who served as the state treasurer during the 1990s. “So if I’m angry as hell about what’s going on with our government, who am I going to throw out? Who am I going to vote against? That’s a big part of this race.”
Several political analysts said that it was still possible — some said it was even likely — that Ms. Coakley, the state’s attorney general, would win on Tuesday, particularly if Mr. Obama’s visit helps turn out the Democratic faithful in strongholds like Boston and if Ms. Coakley is able to hold down Mr. Brown’s margins among independents.
But independent, suburban voters in several other parts of the Northeast voted Republican in November after trending Democratic for years, ousting Gov. Jon Corzine of New Jersey, a Democrat, and unexpectedly returning Nassau County, on Long Island, to Republican rule.
The possibility of a voter revolt in Massachusetts took many Democrats by surprise: local officials were overwhelmingly re-elected last year. Some worry now that they were too complacent in this race. Special elections like this one usually have small turnouts, but the January blizzard of campaign commercials — it is not unusual to see three or four in a row during local newscasts — has whipped up interest in the race.
Many of the advertisements are negative, and a sizable portion of them are being paid for by interest groups trying to either pass or block the health care bill.
Several independent voters said they wanted to elect Mr. Brown to block the health care bill, which they denounced as full of deals for special interests — though several said they thought Massachusetts’ law extending near-universal coverage, one of the models for the national bill, had been largely a success.
“It’s not perfect, but why should we have to pay again when we have health care?” said Ms. Grenham, who works as a physical therapist.
If Martha Coakley actually manages to lose the Senate race in Massachusetts, there will be all sorts of recriminations--but, I believe, one inescapable conclusion. People will say she was a lousy candidate who went to sleep after the primary, taking the general election for granted. True enough. Some will say that Scott Brown is an attractive guy who ran a smart campaign. Also true.
But the inescapable conclusion is that this campaign--now that it's become a huge news story nationally (and also in Massachusetts, which should drive a big turnout)--is a referendum on President Obama's health care reform bill...and the horrifically messy process that produced it. As readers know, I support the bill--it isn't my ideal, the Ron Wyden plan was--because it achieves two important goals: it makes it impossible for insurers to deny coverage and it subsidizes those too poor to afford health care now. It also points the way to a more orderly and consumer-friendly future through the establishment of health care exchanges where individuals and small businesses will have the same market clout (and lower prices) that major corporations now enjoy.
This is good policy, but it now seems entirely possible that it was bad politics. It might have been better for the President to have paid more attention to the public skepticism about governmental activism and built trust by going after more popular demons--Wall Street, for one; Congressional profligacy, for another.
At the end of his presidency, Bill Clinton told me that he should have enacted welfare reform before trying health care. He needed to establish credibility as a good manager--at that point, most middle class voters considered the welfare system a worthless scam (and it was, as subsequent events showed, in desperate need of reform). Obama probably needed to do something similar...and he will, belatedly, do so this year, pushing for stricter financial regulations and a tax on big banks to recoup the bailouts. He should also revive his campaign pledge of a National Infrastructure Bank, which would take decisions about the most important new public works projects out of the hands of Congressional porkers. If Obama had done so in his first year, his approval ratings might be closer to 60% than to 50% today.
He chose instead to take on health care reform, a project of indisputable long-term value to the country. He has gotten farther than most experts considered possible. He has made embarrassing compromises in the process, but it's likely he couldn't have gotten to this point any other way. He has spent most of his political capital. And, if the Democrats lose the election in Massachusetts, Obama loses his veto-proof majority in the Senate...and if he does, his gamble will, most likely, have failed. This will say profound things about government's ability to take on big projects in an atmosphere overwhelmed by special interests, Republican nihilism, media sensationalism and public apathy.
Massachusetts will be spun any number of creative ways, no matter how it turns out. But health care is, in the end, what this is all about.
In today's America, the problem with Obama trying to govern from the center is that his pragmatic, let's-get-the-best-we-can-get approach hasn't motivated the left (or worse, he's pissed it off) while the GOP's tactics of fear mongering ("Death Panels," "He's a socialist") has motivated the right. After all, emotional appeals to fear are intuitively understandable and are always more powerful than rational arguments that require thinking through to accept.
So while traditionally, being in the non-dogmatic center has been the politically wisest place to be, the extremist nature of American politics today means the center maybe becoming toxic to winning elections. Voters in the center have easily swayable positions and are easily dissuaded from voting while those at the extremes are dogmatic and, if you push the right buttons, die hard voters.
The Senate election in Mass is all going to come down to turnout: will disaffected Progressives
and Dems vote or sit this one out because Obama hasn't been pure
Tuesday's election is not really going to be about about the
strength or resurgence of the Right. Instead, it will be about whether
the Left is willing to govern from the center and occupy a position
that, over time, will build an enduring political power base or whether
it wants to emulate the Right and appeal just to its end of the spectrum (see Tea Party Goal: "Take the precinct, take the state, take the party." Tea Party Result: Taking The GOP Over The Cliff).
Tuesday's Mass Senate election is the Democrat's 23rd. Will enough purity-requiring-Progressives sit it out so that the Republican wins ... and therefore kill health care reform and Obama's progressive agenda?
Tuesday's election couldn't be any more important.
Independent voters in Massachusetts are an unpredictable breed and downright ornery when times are bad. On Tuesday, they will determine who will be the state’s next US senator in a race too close to call, capturing the nation’s attention because the fate of a national health care overhaul hangs in the balance.
Termed unenrolled voters because they are not affiliated with a party, independents constitute a majority of the registered voters in the state. Republicans, outnumbered by Democrats by more than 3 to 1, need to capture a huge majority of independents and a slice of moderate and conservative Democrats to win statewide elections.
In a series of polls that show a range of different results between Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown, independents were the key variable. In most of the polls, Brown leads Coakley among independents by at least 2 to 1.
“There’s high intensity among independents, and that has not been the case in a lot of other elections,’’ said David Paleologos, who conducted a poll for Suffolk University last week that gave Brown a narrow edge.
The trouble is, no one knows exactly how many independents will turn out in the first-ever statewide special election - in the dead of winter, no less.
“Figuring out who the likely voters are depends on the historical habits of voters, and since we have no history for this type of election in Massachusetts, we have no good models,’’ said pollster Mark Mellman, president of Washington-based Mellman Group, which is polling in this race for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Difficult to predict is the effect of the late onslaught of attack ads, mostly aimed at Brown, on Tuesday’s turnout. Typically, they are designed to discourage supporters of the targeted candidate from showing up at the polls, particularly independents, who historically are less likely to vote than partisan Democrats and Republicans. But in the volatile political atmosphere of this special election, they are also drawing more attention to the race and raising the stakes.
A poll in last Sunday’s Globe showed Coakley leading Brown by 15 points and a Mellman survey around the same time had her margin at 14. But polls later in the week showed a much closer race, with three reflecting a dead heat or Brown holding a slight lead at the edge of the margin of error. The Globe poll was the only one of five in the past week in which Coakley was ahead among independents.
Since the Globe survey, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, some of those independents have changed their opinion.
Martha Coakley's campaign has decided its message of the day is that Scott Brown doesn't provide health insurance for his campaign staff. This strikes me as an incredibly lame gambit. Try to imagine a voter who would pull the lever for Brown if he did provide health insurance for his campaign staff, but won't knowing that he doesn't. Pretty hard to imagine, huh?
Meanwhile, this newly-surfaced video strikes me as about a million times more powerful. It's a news show in which Brown expresses his doubt that President Obama's mother was married to his father:
To me, this works on a couple levels. By showing Brown endorsing a fringe right-wing pet theory (explanation here), it's more evidence of the fact that Brown is anything but the good government, uniter-not-a-divider moderate he pretends to be. That's the fundamental lie of his campaign that Coakley has been seeking (unsuccessfully, thus far) to expose. And on a visceral level, to watch him chortling as he calls Obama illegitimate is just gross and offensive. To me it exposes the man far more deeply than Coakley not knowing who Curt Schilling is.
There may be no better place to measure the shifting fortunes of President Obama and the Democratic Party than in the race being fought here this weekend for the Senate seat that had been held by Edward M. Kennedy.
When Mr. Obama was inaugurated one year ago this week, he and his party had big majorities in the Senate and House, enjoyed the backing of much of the country and were confidently preparing to enact an ambitious legislative agenda. Republicans seemed directionless and the conservative movement exhausted.
This weekend, Democrats are struggling to hang on to a seat held by Mr. Kennedy for 46 years in one of the most enthusiastically Democratic states in the country. Conservatives are enjoying a grass-roots resurgence, and Republicans are talking about taking back the House in November.
As Mr. Obama prepares to come here on Sunday to campaign for the party’s beleaguered Senate candidate, Martha Coakley, Democrats across the country are starting to wonder aloud if they misjudged the electorate over the last year, with profound ramifications for the midterm elections this year and, potentially, for Mr. Obama’s presidency.
Win or lose in Massachusetts, that a contest between a conservative Republican and a liberal Democrat could appear so close is evidence of what even Democrats say is animosity directed at the administration and Congress. It has been fanned by Republicans who have portrayed Democrats as overreaching and out of touch with ordinary Americans.
“It comes from the fact that Obama as president has had to deal with all these major crises he inherited: the banks, fiscal stimulus,” said Senator Paul G. Kirk Jr., the Democrat who holds the Massachusetts seat on an interim basis pending the special election. “But for many people it was like, ‘Jeez, how much government are we getting here?’ That might have given them pause.”
Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, said the atmosphere was a serious threat to Democrats. “I do think there’s a chance that Congressional elites mistook their mandate,” Mr. Bayh said. “I don’t think the American people last year voted for higher taxes, higher deficits and a more intrusive government. But there’s a perception that that is what they are getting.”
Ms. Coakley, the state attorney general, could still defeat her Republican opponent, State Senator Scott Brown. Polls show the race as very close, and measuring public opinion in special elections is always difficult.
Support for the health care overhaul could grow if it is enacted into law and Americans decide that it has left them better off, as Mr. Obama says will happen. The economy could take a turn for the better by this summer, validating Mr. Obama’s policies in time to influence the midterm elections. And for all the national forces at play here, Ms. Coakley has, in the view of most Democrats, made things worse with a slow-starting and low-energy campaign marked by several high-profile errors.
Still, Mr. Obama’s decision to tear up his weekend schedule to come here reflects concern in the White House that a defeat of Ms. Coakley would be seen as a repudiation of the president’s first year. It would also raise the question of whether Mr. Obama squandered political capital by focusing so much on health care at a time of rising unemployment.
“If it works well, it was a good thing to do for the country here,” Mr. Bayh said. “But there’s definitely an opportunity cost. You could only spend political capital once; it now can’t be spent on other things.”
The Massachusetts campaign has neatly encapsulated the major themes that have come to deplete Mr. Obama’s popularity, themes that have fueled the rise of the Tea Party movement on the right and created an atmosphere where growing numbers of Democrats in conservative-leaning districts and states have decided not to run again.
The feverish excitement that propelled Barack Obama and scores of other Democrats to victory in 2008 has all but evaporated, worrying party leaders who are struggling to invigorate the base before Tuesday’s Massachusetts Senate race and November’s critical midterm contests, pollsters and party activists said.
President Obama’s scheduled visit to the Bay State on behalf of Democratic candidate Martha Coakley today, a rescue bid planned suddenly by the White House last week after Republican Scott Brown pulled even or ahead in some polls, will be a key test of the president’s ability to reenergize his dispirited party.
But the challenges to getting an enthusiastic turnout for Democrats in 2010 are huge. Young voters and left-wing Democrats have become frustrated with progress on the Obama agenda in Washington. Polls show that Obama’s popularity among younger Americans is down.
“People are rightfully disenchanted’’ with the way things are going in Washington, said Michael Vastola, 21, a Tufts University senior and active College Democrat. “I’m personally concerned, because I hope they keep their interest in this upcoming election.’’
While many young voters imagined that an Obama presidency would mean a speedy closure of Guantanamo Bay prison, a wind-down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a health care plan that would, at least, provide a government insurance plan to compete with the private sector, they instead are frustrated at the slow pace of change, Vastola and others said.
“There was this expectation that this was going to be like a Hollywood movie. He was a candidate almost fictionalized from day one,’’ Boston-based Democratic political consultant Michael Goldman said of Obama. “Does it make me frustrated? It does. But it’s reality, it’s the world as it really is, not the fantasy.’’
The trend threatens to do serious damage to the Democrats this fall as they seek to hang onto their majorities in Congress. With “tea party’’ activists and other conservatives eager to vent their anger over Democratic policies, low Democratic turnout could be devastating to the majority party. While a GOP takeover of either chamber of Congress seemed highly unlikely even a month ago, Democratic officials, spooked by developments in deep-blue Massachusetts, fear that Republicans could score big upsets this fall.“I don’t know why some segments of political observers don’t seem to be as motivated. There’s a lot at stake. There’s a lot at stake in the election in Massachusetts; there’s a lot at stake in what’s debated every day on Capitol Hill. What’s at stake is whether we’re going to go forward with ideas for an economic recovery,’’ said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs ...
The White House is clearly disheartened by the attacks it is getting from the left flank of the party.
Polls show that young voters still like Obama, but with less intensity than during the campaign, when 18-29 year-olds voted for him by two-to-one, according to Harvard’s Institute of Politics. Now, 58 percent of those young voters approve of Obama, compared with 54 percent of American voters overall. And a majority of young voters disapprove of the way Obama is handling every key issue the institute studied, including health care, Iran, Afghanistan, the economy, and the budget deficit.
Young voters “have really fallen back in line to look more like the rest of America,’’ said the Institute of Politics polling director, John Della Volpe, a dangerous trend for Democrats who have relied in recent elections on heavy youth support.
Further, while 52 percent of young voters showed up at the polls in 2008, their turnout was abysmally low in last November’s elections, with just 19 percent of eligible young voters casting ballot in New Jersey, 17 percent in Virginia, and 10 percent in New York City’s mayoral race, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, which tracks youth voting patterns.
I sure hope so. The Boston Globe:
Mike Urbonas was waving blue-and-red campaign signs for Democrat Martha Coakley yesterday in downtown Melrose, hoping to give the campaign a jolt and help derail her surging Republican opponent, Scott Brown.
"It just didn’t need to be this close,’’ Urbonas, a 46-year-old from Wakefield, said somewhat wistfully ...
Tommy White, a 23-year-old Brown supporter from Newton, could hardly believe it, either. “Scrape and claw for a few more days, and hopefully we can get this,’’ said White, who held a Brown sign in Quincy wearing stars-and-stripes sweat pants.
The divergent emotions illustrate how a once-sleepy contest for US Senate has become, in the final weekend of the race, unimaginably close, with Coakley and her party doing everything they can to hold on to a reliably Democratic seat. As both candidates barnstormed Eastern Massachusetts yesterday, each was forced to adapt to a new reality: Coakley’s campaign sought to rally its base, while Brown rode the fervent energy of supporters, giddy at the prospect of a monumental upset.
“In the past 24 hours, the lights have come on,’’ Ellen Malcolm, founder of Emily’s List, which supports women candidates who back abortion rights, said while campaigning with Coakley in Melrose. “Democrats have woken up.’’
On both sides, the stakes were abundantly clear: a victory for Brown would reshape Massachusetts politics and potentially quash Democratic-led efforts to remake health care.
Democrats are so nervous about losing the seat once held by Edward M. Kennedy that President Obama, who has a lot riding on Tuesday’s outcome, will campaign for Coakley this afternoon at Northeastern University’s Cabot Center. Doors to the event, which is free to the public, open at 1 p.m., and Obama is scheduled to take the stage two hours later.
Yesterday, Coakley visited union halls in Boston, a deli in Lynn, and a power company in Gloucester, among other stops north of the city. She started the day with Vicki Kennedy, Kennedy’s widow, at the IBEW hall in Dorchester, before a cheering crowd of union members.
“We have a fight on our hands,’’ Robert Haynes, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, said as he delivered a stemwinder at full voice. “There’s nothing less than the future of the labor movement at stake in this election.’’
In the afternoon, Coakley supporters gathered nervously in Gloucester.At Michael’s Haborside bar in Newburyport, a crowd of supporters burst into frequent chants and applause as Coakley spoke. Sandra Thaxter, 66, of Newburyport, said she wouldn’t have turned out had the race not grown tight ...
“The reason I’m here is the polls scared me to death,’’ Sage Walcott, a 69-year-old creative writing professor, said as he hoisted a Coakley sign before the rally. “I can’t imagine Brown replacing Kennedy. It’s an atrocious idea.’’
Coakley sought to highlight their differences on health care by noting that Brown does not pay for health insurance for his campaign workers, who are contractors, while she does.
“We already knew that Scott Brown didn’t want to make health insurance more affordable for Massachusetts families and businesses,’’ Coakley said. “Now we learn that he won’t even make health insurance available for his own staff.’’
Brown initially told the Globe between campaign appearances yesterday morning, “I don’t have any idea what she’s talking about.’’ But at the next stop, he said his 12 workers were short-term contractors who have their own health plans and that they’re happy with the arrangement.
Other than this post, How Coakley Could Lose: "Democrats didn’t show up at the polls because they assumed victory." The Impact: "Huge", I am not spending time blogging today. Instead, I'm volunteering with the Martha Coakley campaign.
Here's what you can do to help: