Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Massachusetts Miracle and its Impact on the 2010 Elections and Obama's Agenda

A week ago, a special election shocked the political establishment and produced one of the most stunning political upsets in history.

Democrats understand that attempts to write off their major defeat in the deepest of blue states to a bad candidate (which Martha Coakley was) misses the mark completely. Scott Brown was a little-known state senator, initially disparaged and written off after winning his party's primary for the special election as too conservative to even be competitive in Massachusetts. Voter anger and frustration over the Cornhusker Kickback, the Lousiana Purchase, backroom deals on healthcare, the lack of transparency, legal rights for terrorists--all of these cannot be understated. Brown did not run away from these issues--he emphatically embraced his role and promised to be the 41st vote against overtaxation, the president's healthcare plan, and campaigned against legal rights for terrorists, going as far as to argue that waterboarding is not torture. Martha Coakley, meanwhile, embraced Obama's policies, a last minute visit by Obama to prop up her failing candidacy was not enough to overcome the voter's desire for change, even in the bluest of blue states where Obama is still relatively popular.

Within a few weeks, Scott Brown transformed a 30 point deficit in the polls into a lead of anywhere from 2-9 points. Coakley out-fundraised him significantly, but in the final weeks, Brown capitalized on his chances and the excitement nationally that a Republican could be elected statewide in Massachusetts to raise millions from grassroots and small donors online.

The ultimate result? Many anticipated an extremely close election that might result in court battles and multiple recounts. The final result was anything but that--A 52-47 win, and a margin of over 100,000 votes--a 5 point margin, which, by Massachusetts standards, is landslide territory (the last Republican to win an election statewide in MA, Mitt Romney, won with only 50 percent of the vote in 2002).

Up until the results were being counted, I still had doubt Brown would pull it off. This is Massachusetts--they haven't elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate in almost 40 years and this was the seat that Ted Kennedy--the Senate's liberal lion--held for 47 years. The state's liberal reputation and voting demographics contradicted Brown's momentum and rise in the polls.

The map below from the New York Times shows the unbelieable--how Massachusetts was transformed from a deep-blue state to a sea of red. Brown managed to improve Republican margins over McCain's performance in 2008 in every county and every locality--even in the Democratic stronghold of Boston, where Brown increased the GOP share of the vote by 11 percent over McCain's '08 vote percentage against Obama.

Some key points from last Tuesday's elections:
  • Brown won 75 percent of Independents in Massachusetts, 22 percent of Democrats, and nearly all Republicans, dealing a death-blow to Coakley's candidacy. Brown's strong win among independents mirrors Obama's dramatic loss of independent support in 2009 and the movement of independents overall to Republicans in generic congressional ballot polls, something that began last November as independents swept Republicans to power in Virginia and New Jersey by significant margins.
  • Brown won by winning the suburbs--the middle-class enclaves surrounding Boston, Cambridge, and Springfield. Large wins in Worcester County, Plymouth County, Essex County coupled with smaller, but significant wins nonetheless in Revere, Waltham, and Quincy enabled Brown to put together the margins needed to win statewide. For what its worth, I stayed in Revere, an inner-ring suburb with 50,000 residents just outside the Boston city limits when I traveled to Boston this past summer, and the usually Democratic-voting suburb suprisingly swung towards Brown, demonstrating his appeal and the shift in the electorate in the Boston 'burbs and throughout the state. In a stinging bit of irony not lost on MA Democrats, Cape Cod, including the community where Ted Kennedy lived, swung towards Brown in this special election.
  • Brown's win in the Massachusetts suburbs is emblematic of the trends that began in last November's off-year elections in Virginia and New Jersey. In Virginia, the northern Virginia suburbs swung back to the Republicans enabling their 3 standard bearers for the state's top offices to win in a stunning trifecta, and resulting in a net gain of 6 seats for the GOP in the statehouse. Voter-rich Fairfax County just outside of Washington, D.C., turned bright red by casting it's votes for Republican Bob McDonnell, backing a Republican for statewide office for the first time in several years, and sending two Republicans to the statehouse from previously-held Democratic seats. New Jersey's suburbs followed a similar course, as Chris Christie won a majority of New Jersey's counties, including Monmouth, Essex, and the NYC suburbs.

  • Conventional wisdom dictates that low-turnout elections favor Republicans while higher turnout favors Democrats. Again, that has proven to be false, as the 54 percent turnout in last Tuesday's special election rivaled statewide, midterm elections and was only surpassed by presidential elections in the state.

  • Obama made a last-minute appearance in Boston to stump for Coakley, but even that was not enough to pull Coakley over the finish line. Obama is now 0 for 3 in using his supposed personal popularity to push his party's candidates to victory. As his approval continues to tumble, watch as more Democratic incumbents decline Obama's help and campaign appearances. If Obama can't deliver in Massachusetts, his personal pitches will be futile across the country.

  • Youth are moving towards the GOP. Brown won voters aged 18-29 by 9 points last Tuesday. This follows the election last November where Republican Bob McDonnell captured 55 percent of young voters.

  • the Mass GOP is energized by the results and have already noted three congressional districts where Brown performed extremely well and where the party may have a good chance at knocking off some longtime Democratic incumbents. These districts in particular look competitive for the GOP next November, and some high-profile Republican recruits have already indicated they will run. For a state with monolithic, one-party representation of its 8 congressional seats for decades, this is a welcome development, and may mean that we will have to dial-down our anti-Massachusetts rhetoric. Clearly, appeals that invoke "Taxachusetts" and Massachusetts vs. the rest of the United States are no longer applicable. San Fransciso is still an appropriate symbol of loony, far-left liberalism run amok however.

  • Expect the Massachusetts election to result in a renewed flurry of Democratic retirements from the House and second-thinking by prominent Democrats considering an entry to hotly contested races. Case-in-point: Beau Biden, considered by Democrats to be their only hope of retaining the open Senate seat in Delaware, has indicated to his dad now that he does not want to run. Does the political tsunami last Tuesday have any bearing on his decision not to run? We think so. Consider the Delaware Senate seat now a very likely pickup for Republican Mike Castle.

  • Locally, the MA results may affect whether Dems recruit a top-tier challenger (if there even is one) for Dennis Moore's seat here in the Third District of Kansas, and whether Ike Skelton decides to retire rather than run in what is shaping to be the most difficult race of his career in Missouri's 4th District

  • Remember when pundits were lamenting the loss of Republicans in the northeast and the death of Republicans in New England, claiming the party would never be viable or competitive again? A newly-elected Republican senator from Massachusetts shattered those predictions, and the party is likely to build on their success in the northeast by electing a Republican Senator from Delaware in Rep. Michael Castle, a good chance to be competitive in the Connecticut Senate Race, a chance at taking out Gillibrand in New York and electing a Senator Pataki or King, and Pat Toomey is now the favorite to beat Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. Additionally, Republicans are well on their way to winning a Senate seat in New Hampshire with Attorney General Kelly Ayote. So Massachusetts, Delaware, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut may all be represented by Republican senators and the addition of several representatives in the House delegations. Not bad for a party that's "dead" in the northeast!

Massachusetts voters have finally revolted against that state's one-party rule, oppressive taxation, and most of all--the Obama-Pelosi agenda. Now the revolt continues in the 49 other states leading up to 2010.

1 comment:

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