Sunday, January 17, 2010

You're No Jack Kennedy

I could hardly blame either Massachusetts' Democrats or Massachusetts' Republicans for saying that about the other party's candidate in the race for what was once the Senate seat of John F. Kennedy.

I can't help wondering about which one Lloyd Bentsen would say it. He might have said it about both.

Democrat Martha Coakley was thought to be a shoo–in — but she has probably run the worst campaign a Democrat can run in what is perhaps the bluest of blue states. If Democrats lose this seat, the one that was occupied by JFK's youngest brother, Teddy, for nearly half a century — when they, arguably, need it the most, to secure a filibuster–busting 60th vote in the debate over the health care reform bill &mdash it will shake the political establishment.

In an attempt to prevent that, Barack Obama came to Massachusetts to campaign for Coakley. And, from what I have gathered, the voters in Massachusetts are like voters elsewhere — they're concerned about the cost of the health care reform legislation, they're worried about the economy, and they're antsy about one–party rule. There isn't much Obama can say about any of those things that will reassure nervous voters.

Well, it's possible I missed something, being here in Texas, but it seems to me that being a roadblock to health care reform is about all that Republican Scott Brown has offered to the voters, although I assume he supports most, if not all, of his party's platform. Surely, it would make Ted Kennedy roll over in his grave if he thought someone who took so many positions that were the opposite of his own might be elected to take his place.

It might happen, though. Howie Carr writes in the Boston Herald that Coakley is clueless, and her recent comments suggest that she just might be.

But, in all honesty, I think Brown made a good point when he said the seat isn't "the Kennedy seat" and it isn't "the Democrats' seat." It is, he said, "the people's seat." If these people do not hand the seat to Coakley, it may not be because of a permanent seismic shift in the political terrain. It may be a warning that Democrats in other states should heed if they want to survive 2010.

Brian Mooney of the Boston Globe points out that independents hold the key in Massachusetts, as they do elsewhere. Partisans in both parties strongly support their nominees, but independents, as Mooney observes, are "an unpredictable breed and downright ornery when times are bad."

Polls are showing independents being drawn to Brown's campaign in large numbers. Undoubtedly, it would be ironic if health care reform got derailed because a Republican was elected to replace Ted Kennedy.

That seems to be at least part of the dynamic at work here. Joan Vennochi writes in the Boston Globe that Brown is "tapping into that special brand of anger that helps Republicans beat Democrats in otherwise solidly blue Massachusetts. When the party in power gets too arrogant — as often, it does — the people get mad."

James Taranto speculates in the Wall Street Journal that some Democrats who must face the voters this year may be hoping that Brown will win, permitting them to avoid casting what could be a career–threatening vote at a time when there are already several items on Democrats' records that work against them.

"Things still look difficult for the Dems come November," writes Taranto, "but they'll have a much easier time of it if ObamaCare is a mistake they averted rather than one the American people will have to live with for years."

Well, whichever candidate wins on Tuesday, Massachusetts voters won't have to live with that decision long if they decide they made a mistake. If the winner wants a full six–year term, he/she will face the voters again in 2012.

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