Wednesday, January 20, 2010; 9:59 AM
I'm pretty predictable on the subject: Local elections turn on local personalities and parochial factors and should not be hyped by the media into some sort of national trend.
Except for this one.
The Massachusetts Senate race is different because Martha Coakley should have won it without breaking a sweat. For all her flaws as a candidate -- who takes a week's vacation in a five-week race? -- it shouldn't have been close. And whatever Scott Brown's strengths as a candidate (other than once being Cosmo's "sexiest man"), he was clearly boosted by growing resentment of Obamacare and the nation's direction in the bluest of blue states.
So the above headline (borrowed from the Boston Herald) isn't far off. For the Democrats to lose Ted Kennedy's seat one year after Barack Obama's victory is a cataclysmic event that will reverberate far beyond the health-care bill that now faces 41 'no' votes in the Senate.
A veteran state attorney general should beat a little-known state senator, even if she didn't know Curt Schilling played for the Red Sox. Coakley was clearly swept away by a political tsunami.
The debate over the race really heated up in the final days, leading to a clash at MSNBC. Keith Olbermann told viewers: "You may not have heard Scott Brown support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, or describing two women having a child as being, quote, 'just not normal.'. . . . In Scott Brown we have an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, teabagging supporter of violence against woman and against politicians with whom he disagrees. . . . The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is close to sending this bad joke to the Senate of the United States."
That brought a Twitter rebuttal from Joe Scarborough: "Obermann calls Brown a 'homophobic racist reactionary' who 'supports violence against women.' How reckless and how sad."
And: "Just as when Beck called the President racist, this sort of rhetorical extremism must be discouraged. It cheapens the debate."
The outcome seemed so apparent that it was already pre-spun, but this is what the papers are saying:
Boston Globe: "Angry Massachusetts voters sent Washington a ringing message yesterday: Enough.
"Voter anxiety and resentment, building for months in a troubled economy, exploded like a match on dry kindling in the final days of the special election for US Senate. In arguably the most liberal state in the nation, a Republican - and a conservative one at that - won and will crash the Bay State's all-Democratic delegation with a mandate to kill the health care overhaul pending in Congress."
NYT: "Scott Brown, a Republican state senator for only five years, shocked and arguably humiliated the White House and the Democratic Party establishment. . . .