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The Special Election in Massachusetts: The Democrats' Desperation

Ronald Radosh

Tomorrow is the Democrat’s D-Day, and the entire nation will be watching. At present, depending on which poll you prefer, Scott Brown is anywhere from 5 points to 10 points ahead of the Democratic incumbent in the Massachusetts Senate seat, Martha Coakley. From all accounts, the momentum is with Brown. Indeed, as Mike Barnicle said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” today, Brown was even ahead in working-class Democratic Marlboro. Brown has been out driving his truck throughout the state, shaking hands, standing in the cold and missing no beat. The clueless Coakley, on the other hand, when asked why she left the state to attend a fundraiser for DC lobbyists, retorted “what do you want me to do, stand in the cold at Fenway Park and shake hands?” Well…

The result might well be the once unthinkable-a win for the mainstream conservative candidate, Scott Brown. As Boston TV political analyst Jon Keller points out in an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal “after Kennedy’s death in August, few imagined there would be any problem replacing him with another Democrat in the U.S. Senate. It’s been 16 years since Massachusetts elected a Republican to a congressional seat, 31 years since the last Republican senator left office. Gov. Patrick appointed a former Kennedy aide as the interim senator, and Democratic primary voters chose the well-regarded state Attorney General Martha Coakley as their nominee for the special election.”

But as Keller points out, independents- who outnumber Democrats in Massachusetts by a large percentage of over 51% of voters- are breaking for Brown by a three to one margin. Coakley is out of touch with the views of the electorate on issues of national security, taxation, as well as on the big one- health care reform. With nation-wide revulsion over the payoff to big Labor, who get an exemption for the Cadillac tax on high cost insurance premiums until 2018, while regular workers start paying in 2013, it is not surprising that so many voters in the Bay State are willing to give up Ted Kennedy’s old seat to a Republican.

And as everyone knows, the campaign is above all a referendum on the Obama administration’s health care bill. The American public does not like it, does not trust the Democrats’ assurances that it can pass without an increase in the deficit, without having to pay higher premiums for their insurance, while getting less secure medical care in exchange. This is especially true in MASS, where the state already has an expensive state-wide health insurance plan.

As they hit the panic button, the Democratic leadership is now pondering the kind of action that is only guaranteed to inflame the national electorate. Privately doubting that Coakley can still pull off an upset victory- despite President Obama’s campaign stops in the State yesterday- their leadership is mulling over how to get their health care plan through the Congress anyway, before newly elected Senator Scott Brown takes his seat and becomes the single Senate vote preventing its passage.

Their so-called backup plan amounts to a back-door measure that blatantly disregards the electorate’s clear call. It amounts to pressuring House Democrats to approve the current Senate bill, so that no more votes are needed, and the bill can immediately be brought to the President for his signature. Their hope is that the House will go along, and its tough minded members on the party’s left will be content with putting in modifying legislation in the future.

If that tactic is rebuffed, their other hope- sure to anger the nation even more- is to move to pass the bill before Brown is sworn in. Or, they could use the so-called “budget reconciliation” process that would give them a victory with only 51 Senate votes needed for the measure to pass. Both scenarios clearly flout the will of the voters, and will appear to the country as a flagrant attempt to bypass the democratic process in order to put over a highly unpopular measure. As Senate Republic leader Mitch McConnell aptly point out, “the politics are toxic for the Democrats either way.”

Ironically, while campaigning in Massachusetts, the President never mentioned the health care reform legislation, although Brown has made it the main point of his campaign. Contrary to his continual assurances that health care reform is a political winner, ABC News reporter Jake Tapper notes on his blog, the President made “no direct reference to Brown being the key vote against passage of the health care reform bill.” The reason is that the administration knows, as Tapper put it, that a close race, even if Brown loses, “is an ominous sign for Democrats.”

Two reporters spoke to an independent who never had participated in a political event before. “I want to be represented,” he told the journalist. “I’m 50 years old. My wife’s 52. We work four jobs between us. We’re going backwards. The government is spending like a drunken sailor.” This man, of course, is precisely the kind of person who used to automatically vote Democrat, but who is now voting on the issues. All this man needs is Cambridge leftists or Northeastern University students knocking on his door, trying to convince him and his neighbors that Martha Coakley represents the people’s interests. The last minute pleas of the President to mobilize his left/liberal base, I predict, has come too late in the game to have an effect.

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