Republican Scott Brown has pulled off a dramatic upset of Democrat Martha Coakley in a special election to fill the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. Brown's win in generally liberal Massachusetts would have been unthinkable a month ago, when Coakley held a commanding lead in the polls. But the Republican, who entered the race as an obscure state senator, received a windfall in donations from around the country as he promised to become the crucial 41st vote in the Senate needed to block the health-care reform bill. Brown also ran what many political strategists are calling a near-perfect race, surging in the polls just as the campaign drew to a close. What message does the vote send to Washington? (Watch a CBS report about Scott Brown's Senate win)
This proves Americans reject the Democrats' agenda: Democrats will insist voters are just angry over the economy, say the editors of National Review. But until recently the conventional wisdom was that the recession would increase the public's appetite for Obamacare and other liberal policies. Scott Brown "ran on tax cuts, tough interrogations of terrorists, and opposition to a federal takeover of health care and a bank tax"—if that's what people want in liberal Massachusetts, it's surely what they want elsewhere.
This was not a vote against health care: Massachusetts is the one state that has already adopted health-care reforms similar to those in the House and Senate bills, says Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic. Voters there "support the idea by wide margins," which is why Scott Brown "went out of his way to endorse" the state's version of reform while trashing Washington's. Democrats can still enact health-care guarantees that Sen. Brown supports for his constituents back home—all they have to do is get the House to pass the version the Senate has already approved.
"Dear nervous and frustrated House Democrat..."
The vote meant voters are tired of being ignored: "This was the 'enough is enough' election," says Michael Graham in the Boston Herald. Voters in Massachusetts were tired of being treated like "second-class citizens," with "the arrogant ruling class" telling them that, after forking over hundreds of millions for the state's "health reform," they would have to pay premiums in some cases 30 percent higher as a result of Obamacare. It wasn't Brown's excellent campaign or Coakley's lousy one that caused this upset—voters want to keep politicians in Washington and in Massachusetts from ramming expensive policies down their throats.
"Democrats hear an overdue message"
The message is chilling for Democrats, and Republicans: The claim that this is a vote against health-care legislation doesn't make "any sense," says Daniel Larison in American Conservative. After all, the health-care promise was part of what helped Obama win overwhelmingly in Massachusetts. The true message here is that the winning party, Democrat or Republican, in any election can be punished by the anti-incumbent desire to shake things up even if all it has done is attempt to make good on its campaign promises.
"Change for change's sake"
Time for Dems to panic: This stunning loss "will make it difficult for Democrats to pass not only health care, but energy reform, education reform, and a budget to their liking," says Chris Good in The Atlantic. "With moderates like Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) in their caucus, things were difficult before; but now Democrats must court a single vote from the likes of Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), the only true moderates left in the GOP caucus, to pass anything." Let the Democrats' panic begin.
"The post-Coakley panic of 2010"
SEE MORE OF THE WEEK'S MASSACHUSETTS COVERAGE:
• Scott Brown: 5 essential facts
• The Massachusetts blame game
• Can Democrats save health reform?
• Why Massachusetts matters