The WSJ carries a story this morning entitled “White House Toughens Tone”. The essence of the article is the White House intends to use the State of the Union address to push an even larger agenda and isn’t about making any “abrupt policy shifts”. He will, however, be stressing jobs.
OK. So what? I think we’ve seen a year of speeches which, for the most part, pushed a nebulous agenda but then saw an ineffectual White House unable to push any of it through. What will be different with the SOTU address (other than the fact his use of his teleprompter will be in front of adults vs. sixth graders)?
The article also touts the fact that David Plouffe will be joining the staff of the White House. That is a purely political move, having little effect on policy or its accomplishment. Plouffe is a spin-meister whose preferred venue is a campaign where claims are rarely questioned. That’s not the venue he will find in the White House. And again, if nothing in terms of leadership from the White House follows the SOTU speech, the result will be much the same as it has been all year, Plouffe or no Plouffe.
“People are working harder,” White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” referring to the economy. “If they have a job, they’re working harder for less. They’re falling behind. That’s been true for a decade. They look at a wave of irresponsibility from Wall Street to Washington that led to that. And those were the frustrations that got the president elected in the first place, and they were reflected again on Tuesday” in the Massachusetts election.
All that Republican can hope for is David Axelrod and the White House keep believing this. The frustration he’s seeing from voters has little to do with Wall Street, despite the White House’s attempt to make it a populist cause. What is “frustrating” the voters is the out of control government spending and the massively increasing size of government and it’s continued intrusion into their lives. Yes, they want government focusing on the economy and jobs. But not if the “answer” is throwing more money we don’t have at it. Do what is necessary with tax cuts (such as an immediate one for payroll taxes) and rolling back some of the regulatory regime to encourage business to hire and expand. But Democrats and the White House seem oblivious to the fact that 56% of the country opposed the so-called “stimulus” and still do. So I look for Obama to promise massive spending increases to support whatever “focus” he brings to jobs in the SOTU address.
As for Republicans? Well, they have it wrong as well:
Republicans, meanwhile, said their victory in Massachusetts was spurred by opposition to the health overhaul. “The message in Massachusetts was absolutely clear,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “The exit polls that I looked at said 48% of the people in Massachusetts said they voted for the new senator over health care. Only 5% mentioned any other issue. The American people had a victory in Massachusetts, and they were sending us the message ‘Stop and start over.’ ”
Certainly health care was the immediate issue that is most identified as a reason for voting for Brown, but Brown’s overall theme was less spending, less taxation and smaller government. The voter’s disapproval of health care was just part of a broader disapproval of an out of control government spending them into penury. People are finally frightened by what they see. Over the decades the increases in the size, scope and spending of government has been relatively slow and incremental. But within the last year, it has been so massive that even the most disinterested of citizens has been alarmed by it. Democrats are seeking to raise the debt ceiling by 1.9 trillion dollars – again.
This sort of spending is recognized as “out of control” by even the least informed among us. If Republicans focus only on the Brown victory being about health care, they will, as usual, have missed the real problem and the real issue. And that’s unfortunate because it is an issue that plays to their strengths much better than it does those of Democrats. Scott Brown is going to Washington DC because he’s talked about making government smaller, less intrusive and less expensive. He ran a good campaign focused on those primary core issues. It is a blueprint for the coming midterms if the Republicans are smart enough to figure that out and use those broad issues against this Congress and President. They need to get over gloating about stopping health care and make the point that it’s about stopping explosive government growth and the spending that goes with it. It’s about telling the people we can’t afford this and they’re the ones to right the ship of state and cut back on its size and expense. For once, it appears the people are ready to listen to that message. I’m not sure how many more hints they have to throw the Republican’s way before they finally figure it out.
We have two examples today and they’re each interesting because of who they are.
The first is a self-identified independent – Jill Dorson. She voted twice for Bush, but, as she admits, fell hard for the hype Obama put out there. She was also put off by the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate.
I voted for hope and change and all the intangibles that Obama was peddling in the wake of the financial crisis, Sarah Palin, Sept. 11 and all the other ills that shook our country in the last decade. I wanted something new. Something different. What I got was, I suppose, exactly what I voted for – a spin doctor. And not a very good one at that.
She speaks of how quickly “hope” and “change” went by the boards. How she watched the same sort of policies she thought she had voted against continued. And the bailouts, huge spending programs and the like horrified her.
It was clear after just 90 days what a mistake I’d made. My taxes have gone up and my quality of life has gone down. Hope has given way to disgust and I see now that change is simply a euphemism for “big government.”
Like many others, my view is narrow. I vote for the candidate I think will be best for me. I often define myself as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. But above all, I want to feel safe and I don’t want to feel that I am being ripped off. I want a president who inspires me and cares about my contribution to the fabric of the country. I want a president with experience and savvy, a Commander in Chief who puts our country and its citizens first.
I only hope the Republicans can find him the next time around.
She nails three points – one, Obama’s a fraud and hasn’t even come close to living up to his promises; two, his “change” was to bigger and even more intrusive government; and three, none of that will matter in 2012 unless Republicans can find a good candidate that year (and, as you can tell, she’s made it clear that’s not Sarah Palin).
But the bottom line is, she’s open to another “change”,. In fact, she’s begging for it. And, I think, she’s indicative of the feelings of many independents (not necessarily for the same reasons) – this is not the change or the guy they thought he was.
Which brings us to the second example of buyer’s remorse – this one is scathing and it’s from a “progressive”. He entitles it “How to Squander the Presidency in One Year” and then David Michael Green spends at least a 1000 words describing how that has been accomplished in detail, calling Obama the Conan O’Brian of presidents. You may not agree with much of what he says, historically, but when he finally gets to Obama he doesn’t hold back.
One point he makes resonated with me as it is a point I’ve been making for a while, in fact, as recently as Friday:
* He does not lead. Americans, especially in times of crisis, want their daddy-president to pick a point on the horizon and lead them to it. Often – especially in the short term – they don’t even care that much which point it is. They will happily follow a president whose policies they oppose if he will but lead.
Everything after the first sentence is a load. But even Green has figured out that Obama isn’t a leader and has never demonstrated any leadership. And that has consequences. Green comes to the very same conclusions I voiced Friday:
* He has therefore let Congress ‘lead’ on nearly every issue, another surefire mistake. Instead of demanding that they pass real stimulus legislation – which would have really stimulated the economy, big-time, and right now – he let those d*ckheads on the Hill just load up a big pork party blivet of a bill with all the pet projects they could find, designed purely to benefit their personal standing with the voters at home, rather than to actually produce jobs for Americans. And on health care, his signature issue, he did the same thing. “You guys write it, and I’ll sign the check.” Could there possibly be a greater prescription for failure than allowing a bunch of the most venal people on the planet to cobble together a 2,000 page monstrosity that entirely serves their interests and those of the people whose campaign bribes put them in office?
Bingo. And Green goes on and on and on. Be sure to read it all. The point, of course, is he’s managed to alienate not only the voters who would be the determining factor in any election – the big middle – but his base, which held so much “hope” for his presidency and now realize they bought a pig in a poke and should have known better. What that translates into is an “enthusiasm gap” which is going to be hard to bridge if things don’t change. And, if nothing changes, Indies will vote for the other guy (assuming the Republicans have a worthwhile candidate lined up) and Democrats will stay home.
We’ve seen president’s change before. Bill Clinton was at one time declared to be “irrelevant” yet he managed to again make himself very relevant. And George Bush was counted out more times than any president I know of, yet managed to remain relevant through the majority of his 2 terms.
Obama has got a tough row to hoe – but it is one of his own making. Back to Jill Dorson. She made an interesting statement about the last election:
You see, I felt my choice was to risk McCain dropping dead and letting the world’s most well-known hockey mom run this country …
But instead she decided on risking a junior Senator with absolutely no experience because he was so attractive:
I am ashamed to say that I was blinded by charisma. Obama was so convincing that I stopped caring about what he knew and started getting caught up in the euphoria. Imagine having a president who came from a broken home, who had money troubles, who did grass-roots community service? A young father. The first black president. It pains me to admit I got caught up in the hoopla.
Once that admission is made – and I have a feeling, bolstered by the results in VA, NJ and MA, that it is being made a lot – there’s no going back. That’s where Dorsen finds herself now. And interestingly, so does Green. Those defections translate into votes for whomever opposed Obama and an “enthusiasm gap” among his supporters which may see them sitting home.
That doesn’t bode well for Obama in 2012 unless the Republicans again run some tired old war horse that is unable to excite the base or independents, as they managed to do last time. So while Obama certainly has his problems they’re not necessarily terminal, electorally speaking, just yet. However, I’d say if the Republicans can find an attractive candidate and run a grounded, issue oriented campaign (like Scott Brown in MA) that reflects their principles of less government, less spending and fewer taxes, they have a good shot in the next presidential election.
That didn’t take long. After essentially ignoring Senate Republicans for a year (well except when they thought they could pick one or two off to help them make something appear “bi-partisan”), Democrats are now ready to lecture Republicans about their new “responsibility”. In a talking points memo issued to Democratic Senators today, they lay out their argument. The memo is entitled:
MASSACHUSETTS ELECTION MEANS THAT SENATE REPUBLICANS HAVE MORE RESPONSIBILITY TO GOVERN, NOT OBSTRUCT
We can literally spend the entire post on just the title. Contained in that sentence is the premise they hope they can sell to the Republicans and thereby lessen the impact of losing their supermajority.
But let’s be real – the election of Brown imposes no such obligation or responsibility on minority Republicans in the Senate anymore than it did on the Democrats when they were in the minority there. What the election of Brown does is make it hard for the Democrats to “govern” in the manner they’d prefer (unilaterally), so they’d like to lay this “responsibility” premise on the Republicans while they’re a bit euphoric over the win last night and might readily agree to that role.
Instead it is the role and responsibility of the GOP to do whatever they think is necessary to block bad legislation that unnecessarily increases the size, scope and cost of government. That’s what Brown promised to do and that’s why he’s going to the Senate. If the Democrats prefer to characterize that as “obstruction” then so be it. Time to grow a thick skin for once in your lives. And a spine wouldn’t hurt either.
During this last year, the Republicans haven’t had the power to “obstruct” anything and the Democrats know it. Now Republicans do. The fact that the Democrats are left sitting in the legislative ruins of their own making is no skin off the GOP’s nose. They had their chance and they blew it. If the GOP isn’t completely deaf, what they heard last night with the election of Brown was the people don’t want what the Democrats are selling.
So what should happen? The GOP should reject that premise outright and upfront and they should adopt one that is the polar opposite of that which Democrats are trying to push in their talking point memo.
Specifically: The GOP has the responsibility to obstruct/block/say “no” to the Democratic agenda as they have determined that agenda unnecessarily increases the size, scope and cost of government.
So who are you going to listen too, Republicans? The people or the Democrats?
Yup – That’s test question number one and it’s not multiple choice.
Few will disagree that Scott Brown’s solid victory last night was meant to send an important message to Washington. Sure, there will be some whistling past the graveyard, but for the most part the political punditry and policy-makers will understand that something needs to change, and fast. Like dog whistles and Irish brogues, however, not everyone will hear the same thing.
It will not escape those who are truly paying attention that the Senate health care bill currently residing in the House was a huge catalyst behind Brown’s come-from-nowhere win. Brown’s potential cloture-busting vote looms large in a debate where Washington elites have tuned out those whom they mean to rule. It looms so large, and its power to lure slightly more than half the registered voters to the polls on a snowy day for a special election with nothing else on the ballot sends such a strong statement, that even Barney Frank seemed to get the message:
I have two reactions to the election in Massachusetts. One, I am disappointed. Two, I feel strongly that the Democratic majority in Congress must respect the process and make no effort to bypass the electoral results. If Martha Coakley had won, I believe we could have worked out a reasonable compromise between the House and Senate health care bills. But since Scott Brown has won and the Republicans now have 41 votes in the Senate, that approach is no longer appropriate. I am hopeful that some Republican Senators will be willing to discuss a revised version of health care reform because I do not think that the country would be well-served by the health care status quo. But our respect for democratic procedures must rule out any effort to pass a health care bill as if the Massachusetts election had not happened. Going forward, I hope there will be a serious effort to change the Senate rule which means that 59 votes are not enough to pass major legislation, but those are the rules by which the health care bill was considered, and it would be wrong to change them in the middle of the process.
Virginia Senator Jim Webb said much the same thing last night:
In many ways the campaign in Massachusetts became a referendum not only on health care reform but also on the openness and integrity of our government process. It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.
Yet, somehow, even while recognizing that Democrats playing a legislative game of keepaway with the bill before the House (that was drafted behind closed doors, it should be noted) will only serve to undermine public confidence in the law (and Congress), progressives like Jane Hamsher still think that’s what’s called for now:
In the wake of Martha Coakley’s defeat, both Representative Barney Frank and Senator Jim Webb have said that jamming a health care bill through before Scott Brown can be seated is not the right thing to do.
They’re right. Health care legislation would be viewed — with some justification — as illegitimate.
But many on the Hill tonight are saying that the Massachusetts defeat also means that health care reform is dead, fearful that what happened to Martha Coakley will happen to them, too, in 2010.
That’s about as feasible as Wile E. Coyote trying to turn around and run back across the bridge that is crumbling behind him. There’s only one way to go.
The non-budgetary “fixes” like banning the exclusion of those with pre-existing conditions have already passed the Senate. A public option — or an expansion of Medicare — can be added through reconciliation, which takes 51 votes. The Republicans certainly had no fear of using reconciliation when George Bush was in office. And the Democrats are going to need to do so in order to make good on their promise to fix the excise tax to benefit of the middle class, which will cost roughly $60 billion. But their options for doing that are limited by the process itself: they can pay for it by the savings from a government program like a public option or an expansion of Medicare. Or, they can piss everyone off and raise taxes.
That looks to be where Gerald Nadler and Anthony Weiner are headed tonight. They indicate that “the only way they could sign on to the Senate bill is if it was accompanied immediately, or even preceded by, a separate bill, making a number of major preemptive changes to what they regard as an inferior package,” per Brian Beutler.
It’s called sidecar reconciliation. And the 65 members of the House who have pledged to vote against any bill that does not have a public option should be looking into it seriously tonight.
Got that? Passing a bill that circumvents Brown’s vote will be viewed “with some justification” as illegitimate, so let’s go ahead and do just that! Do these people even listen to themselves? Using the reconciliation process (“sidecar” or otherwise) to shove health care legislation down Americans’ throats simply eschews the very legislative process that Barney Frank and Jim Webb cited as the reason to forgo further action on health care until Brown is seated. Yet, Hamsher and her cohorts advocate for legislative legerdemain anyway. Cognitive dissonance in action.
The reason, of course, is that passing health care legislation is such a fundamental issue for progressives that they have thrown all sense (such as was possessed) to the wind. It has nothing to do with what people want, but instead with what progressives want people to want. Apparently it doesn’t even matter that the rosy economic projections upon which these health care bills are based have little to no basis in reality. I guess, since the ultimate goal is a utopian fantasy, employing imaginary thinking is the only way to get there.
If nothing else, the reaction of progressives to the Massachusetts race reveals how dangerous they are when wielding power. Inconvenient facts are dismissed, and constituents are ignored, because what the progressive lacks in having any grasp of reality is more than made up for by resounding confidence and self-righteousness. Fortunately for us, the electorate does not appear to be willing to indulge their fantasies anymore.[ad#Banner]
As Democrats survey the aftermath of a devastating defeat in yesterday’s Senate race in of all places, Democrat friendly Massachusetts, they have to be wondering how safe their own seats are. Even Barbara Boxer, whose polls have shown weakness, has to be a little concerned. If you can’t hold on to a Senate seat in a state where you outnumber the opposition 3.5 to 1, what seat is safe? Couple that with the fact that their super-majority in the Senate is gone and their legislative agenda in jeopardy, and they have a fine mess on their hands.
So that brings us to the broader implication of the Scott Brown victory yesterday. Does it mean Democrats will back off, heed the message and either kill or drastically reduce the health care bill? Or does it mean they plan on doubling down, pushing that monstrosity through as quickly as possible and hope to have the time to repair the damage before the midterms? Because that’s the choice they’re going to have to make and make soon.
If you listened to Nancy Pelosi yesterday, indications are they plan on doubling down. She’s quoted as saying that no matter what happens with Scott Brown, she plans on seeing health care passed. And, of course, Harry Reid – trailing badly in the polls in his home state – is of a similar mind.
The question is, how? There are several means of accomplishing the task. One is to pass the Senate version unchanged. That would only require a majority in the House and the bill can be sent to the President for signature. However, the Progressive caucus along the the Democratic pro-life wing aren’t at all keen on the idea and they carry enough votes to kill it.
That brings us to another method which seems to at least be the preferred method of the Olbermans, Matthews and Maddows of the world – reconciliation. It requires only simple majorities to pass legislation. But because it is aimed at budgetary legislation, it will mean a pared down health care bill that Democrats can ram through and at least have something to show for it. The question is would that be enough and, will it save them in November. The answer to both questions are probably “no”. However they may be left with little choice but to resort to this method.
And that’s because that last method is a compromise bill (what they’ve been working behind closed doors to craft) which will most likely please no one on the Democratic side (Republicans have lined up solidly against it already since they were shut out of the process) and they’re now facing a fight in the Senate they’re likely to lose (word is Joe Lieberman is again iffy on the bill).
Fun times in DC. But at least it’s a game again with the minority should be armed enough to stop the most outrageous of the liberal agenda. I’m not quit sure how the health care fiasco will play out – hopefully if not dead, it is at least a drastically reduced bill that can be repealed in the future prior to going to going into effect – but I’d say cap-and-trade is in serious trouble if not dead, and immigration reform is going to require Democrats to at least approach Republicans to pass anything meaningful.
Or to put it succinctly – the Brown win brought the blessing of divided government again. It’s by a very slim margin, but it is there again. And that is the model we should always strive to have at a federal level.
Republicans stand to pick up significant gains in November of this year. You can only hope that they’ve learned a valuable lesson from this election as well. The people want smaller and less intrusive government. They’ve once again begun turning to the Republicans to see that wish enabled. The question is will the message be heeded or will Republicans again ignore it as they did previously when in power and end up again handing it back to the Democrats?
We shall see, won’t we?
AP has just called the Massachusetts Senate race for Republican Scott Brown (9:25 pm) who looks like he’ll end up with anywhere from a 5 to 7 point win.
Probably the most interesting thing I saw during the coverage was feedback during a Frank Lunz group on Fox (I watched MSNBC most of the night which was, well frankly, highly entertaining). The group were predominantly Democrats who voted for Obama. And a good majority of them claim to have voted for Brown. When asked why they said they were against health care reform, wanted Congress to back off and they were sending a message.
What will be interesting is how all the political “experts” choose to interpret this loss and what adjustments they’ll recommend be made. But I can tell you right now, there are a whole crap load of Democrats in marginal seats thinking “if we can’t hold Teddy Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts, what chance have I unless I do something completely different?”
Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid wake up to a whole new world tomorrow.
I’d say, given all I’ve read and heard pertaining to the polls, that a win by Brown in today’s special Senatorial election in Massachusetts is a pretty solid prediction. But polls have been wrong before. With that said, I think he will pull it off even if only by a point or two.
So what can we expect if that’s the case. 364 days after Barack Obama took office and in what Democrats figured was their seat forever given it had belonged to the “Liberal Lion” of the Senate in deep blue and solidly dependable Massachusetts a Republican wins the seat?
What will be the reaction and what are the implications?
According to Politico, President Obama’s reaction to such a win will be to “fight hard”. Nice words for a pep rally.But if Brown wins, fighting hard will be about all that’s left to Obama as the filibuster proof majority in the Senate will have gone up in smoke. And that, of course puts his entire ambitious agenda, to include the pending health care bill, in jeopardy.
A potential casualty: the health care bill that was to be the crowning achievement of the president’s first year in office.
The health care backdrop has given the White House a strong incentive to strike a defiant posture, at least rhetorically, in response to what would be an undeniable embarrassment for the president and his party.
Anyone who continues to pretend this isn’t an election with far reaching implications and a referendum on the agenda pushed by the President and Congressional Democrats needs to again review the place in which this Republican is leading. Those who would like to put it all on an unattractive candidate need to remember that candidate blew away her closest rival in a Democratic primary by 19 points. This isn’t just about Martha Coakley.
An upset by Republican Scott Brown would be covered in many quarters as a repudiation of Obama, especially after Obama’s last-ditch campaign appearance with Coakley 36 hours before the polls opened.
This is about an electorate that is increasingly uneasy about the path the federal government under the Democrats is taking. This is a reaction to the action of the last 364 days. And the timing couldn’t be any better:
A Massachusetts embarrassment would strongly increase the pressure Obama was already facing to retreat or slow down the “big bang” agenda he laid out a year ago.
That includes cap-and-trade, which Congressional Democrats are backing away from as quickly as they can, and immigration. What this should force, if Democrats can swallow the lesson and heed the consequences of a Brown win, is a shelving of those issues and a concentration on the economy like a “laser beam”.
The possibility that Democrats could avoid a blood bath in November is iffy at the moment but salvageable if they do that. If, however, they get combative and attempt to ram through the present agenda (as it appears they will) while continuing to giving lip service to the economy and job creation (shall we have another “job summit”?), then they’ll suffer the consequences in mid-terms 10 months from now.
Today’s election is a game changer. Even if Brown loses, the message should be clear – back off the spending and expansion of government, concentrate on the economy and do what is necessary to get this country moving again economically, or the voters will put people in who will, even in deep blue Massachusetts.
The polls opened 12 minutes ago – this should be a very interesting day.
How scared are Senate Democrats that Martha Coakley will lose the special Senate seat election in Massachussetts tomorrow? This scared.
The White House and Democratic Congressional leaders, scrambling for a backup plan to rescue their health care legislation if Republicans win the special election in Massachusetts on Tuesday, have begun laying the groundwork to ask House Democrats to approve the Senate version of the bill and send it directly to President Obama for his signature.
Well, I’m sure if that’s gonna fly.
When the idea was suggested at a Democratic caucus meeting last week, Mr. [Bart] Stupak [D-MI] said, “It went over like a lead balloon.”
But, that was then. This is now.
Let’s start our week of with the irony impaired. In this case it is Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), explaining why Democrat Martha Coakley – or as he referred to her, “Marcia Coakley” – is in trouble in the Massachusetts Senate Race:
“If you think there’s magic out there and things can be turned around overnight, then you would vote for someone who could promise you that, like Scott Brown,” Kennedy said. “If you don’t, if you know that it takes eight years for George Bush and his cronies to put our country into this hole … then you know we have a lot of digging to do, but some work needs to be done and this president’s in the process of doing it and we need to get Marcia Coakley to help him to do that.”
On to the irony:
“One thing the Democrats have done wrong? We haven’t kept the focus on this disaster on the Republicans who brought it upon us. We’ve tried too hard to do that right thing, and that’s to fix it, as opposed to spend more of our time and energy pointing the finger at who got us [here] in the first place.”
You can’t make this stuff up, folks. Of course one of the reasons this election is a referendum on Democrats in general is because the public at large mostly thinks they haven’t focused on that which is important – employment and the economy – but instead squandered their time on the less important, such as health care reform and cap-and-trade. As for the irony of claiming they haven’t spent any time and energy pointing the finger at others, blaming George Bush is a cottage industry among the Democrats, who spend days finding new and more entertaining ways to blame him for all their woes.
Whether or not Scott Brown ends up winning in Massachusetts on Tuesday, this is as obvious a wake-up call for Democrats as one can issue. Even the NY Times recognizes what’s going on:
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.
The most certainly did misjudge the electorate, because the nation’s situation changed late in the campaign. When it became clear that the economy was in trouble and unemployment was rising, that and not the liberal Democratic agenda, should have become priority one. But it wasn’t. They consciously chose to place the party’s agenda before the nation’s needs and have blindly pursued that agenda in the face of a continuing economic downturn. That has placed them in the position they now occupy – out of touch, running out of time and facing a political bloodbath in November. It was a calculated risk, counting on swift passage of the agenda items, which hasn’t materialized. And, no matter how persistently and consistently they attempt to blame everything on Bush, that opportunity expired many months ago.
This is now about the Democrats and Obama and whether they like it or not the Senate race in Massachusetts is a referendum on their performance to date.
Perhaps the most important political story this week – possibly this year – is the Senate race in Massachusetts. The vote is Tuesday. And, at the moment, it appears the Democrats are in trouble in a solidly blue state. The reasons are many. How much each reason contributes to the whole is debatable, but watching the reaction of Democrats to this unexpected and developing debacle has been somewhat comical.
Of course one of the reasons is the Democratic candidate. Mass Attorney General Martha Coakely has conducted a campaign – and I use the term “conducted” very loosely – that will most likely become the case study on how to lose an election in a state in which your party is the prohibitively dominant party. And a seat that has been in Democratic hands for almost 50 years. She’ not only a politically unattractive candidate, she is about as inept a politician as one can find. Combine all of that with a campaign that has mostly been missing in action and you can begin to understand why she’s trailing in the polls. I mean who else but the clueless would call beloved Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling a “Yankees fan”. Her campaign is trying to sell that as a joke gone wrong, but in Red Sox mad Massachusetts, you just don’t joke about some things.
So even with all of that going against her, other politicians have run poor campaigns in states which heavily favored their party and still won. Why couldn’t that happen in Massachusetts? Well, it could – let’s not fool ourselves. But in this case as inept and poor a candidate Martha Coakley has been, Scott Brown, the Republican, has been a good candidate. He’s been on message, on target and all over the place. The little known Republican, prior to the race, is pretty well known in the state now. And polls have him up slightly (by a point or three). Even internal Democratic polls show Brown with a lead.
This has prompted Democrats, over the last couple of weeks, to go from being a bit antsy to outright panic. First it was sending in operatives from the DNC. Then it was escalated to having Bill Clinton do a little campaigning for Coakley. And now the big boss, Barack Obama, has been summoned to the fray in an effort to somehow revive the flagging Coakely campaign.
It may be too little too late – one of the things I’ve been pointing too and I’ve seen others cite is an apparent “enthusiasm gap” among the two side. Scott Browns supporters are very enthusiastic about his candidacy and his chances of winning. Martha Coakley’s – not so much. In fact Blue Mass Group, a Massachusetts Democratic group blog recently entitled a post “I know it sucks but vote for Coakley” or words to that effect. A ringing endorsement if ever I’ve seen one. Enthusiasm is what drives voter turnout. And obviously voter turnout is the key. The enthusiasm the Democrats had for their brand just a few short months ago, has gone with the wind.
Secondly – independents aren’t staying under the Democratic umbrella. In fact, polls show them deserting in alarming numbers. Again, not a good sign for Democrats in general, but surely not a good sign for Coakley.
And, during my reading this past week (sorry no cite) I remember a poll which said about 20% of Democrats in Massachusetts don’t like the state’s health care program and are leaning heavily toward Brown. That means it may be Democrats who put the final nail in the Coakley coffin.
That brings up the question that is constantly asked and consistently denied by David Axelrod – is this election a referendum on the Democrats and the Obama agenda?
How could it not be? Look at the state. Look at the stakes (Brown means the HCR bill is dead). It is fraught with national political implications. To contend otherwise is simply whistling past the graveyard. If Brown wins the US political world is turned upside down. It will energize the right as has no recent election anywhere – a Republican in the “Ted Kennedy seat?” Are you kidding? That would be like electing Ariel Sharon to the presidency of Egypt.
It would also be the death knell of the liberal attempt to pass their agenda in Congress as the filibuster proof Senatorial majority would exist no more. Axelrod knows that. Obama knows that. And so do Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
The next day or so should see a spin up of the dirty tricks department like none in recent memory. Already the DCCC has released a smear mailer that simply isn’t supported by facts (and that FactCheck.org has specifically refuted). More to come I’m sure.
But the bottom line is that there is a good chance that Scott Brown will win this thing. And per the GOP’s attorneys, if he does, Paul Kirk, the interim appointee there to fill the seat until the special election, may not be eligible to vote after Tuesday. What a wrench that throws, if true, into the machinations of the Harry Reid scheme to pass the bill before Brown could be seated.
This has the possibility of being a game changer of an election if Brown succeeds. And I’ve got to tell you, I’m ready for the game to change, that’s for sure.