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Archive for January, 2010

[The Multiversity and Beyond takes a divergence from higher education topics to comment on the US Senate Race in Massachusetts]

Political coverage often has a breathless quality that highlights failure and diminishes success. In most cases, consumers of news would be wise to take any claim with a grain of salt, if not dismisses it entirely. However, if in Massachusetts tonight Martha Coakley loses her bid to replace Ted Kennedy in the US Senate, then there are not enough exclamations or adjectives to describe the magnitude of this defeat.

Considered an almost impossible outcome, a Republican (Scott Brown) seems poised to win today’s special election to replace the Liberal Lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy. The Democratic challenger Martha Coakley had been the popular state Attorney General when the race began, having boasted a 30-point lead. However, a lack of hustle and some novice mistakes cost Coakley her lead and now a – dare I say – maverick Republican is pushing ahead in the polls.

So why is this bad? Consider a few points:

  • Massachusetts is one of the few states (possibly only) where being a liberal isn’t a badge of shame, but a tradition. This is the state that regularly and loyally sent Ted Kennedy and John Kerry to the US senate.
  • This is Ted Kennedy’s seat. The Kennedy image is deeply entwined with Massachusetts. While the Coakley camp overplayed the state’s loyalty to the Kennedy’s (Paul Wellstone anyone?), it is still hard to believe the Dems couldn’t secure Teddy’s seat.
  • Health care was a major issue in this election. Massachusetts is the only state that has an-almost universal health care policy. Also, it got a sweetheart deal in the current Health Care Bill – one that counts on 60 Democratic Senators to pass. If the voters of this state can’t be counted on to support the Dems, what are the chances anywhere else?

If the Democrats are not successful in Massachusetts tonight, they need to prepare for a bleak mid-term election in November 2010. This race will energize the Republican base, frustrate Democratic dominance of Congress and seriously threaten the Health Care Bill. The result will weaken the Dems seeking reelection and will seriously disrupt the domestic agenda of President Barack Obama.

The news isn’t all bad however. The Massachusetts race will provide the playbook for every election in November 2010. It shows how Republicans can win, but it also shows Democrats how they lost. They have time (thought not much) to analyze the results and develop a new strategy that can ensure a loss in Massachusetts is an isolated event, and not a harbinger.

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