Brown’s Senate win could bury Obama’s agenda

The stunning Republican victory in Tuesday’s Massachusetts Senate race will force Democrats to fundamentally rethink the meaning of Barack Obama’s election to the presidency, especially the notion that Americans want more government help in matters such as obtaining health insurance.

Scott Brown’s win in a liberal state will do more than vastly complicate Obama’s bid to overhaul the U.S. health care system and pass climate-change legislation. It will prompt politicians of every stripe to redouble their efforts to understand voters’ anger and desires ahead of the November elections for Congress, governorships and state legislatures.

Many Americans saw the 2008 election as a repudiation of George W. Bush’s presidency, with Obama as the fresh new leader promising to harness the government to expand health coverage, discipline banks and stimulate the moribund economy.

But Brown’s victory over Democrat Martha Coakley suggests that many voters still harbor suspicions or outright resentment of the federal government, no matter who’s in charge.

Conservatives, perhaps sensing the mood better than liberals, have accused Obama of big-brotherism and even socialism as he pushes his health plan and pours billions of dollars into economic stimulus programs.

The president rightly notes that he campaigned precisely on those issues. But that’s small comfort to nervous and perplexed Democratic lawmakers who now expect stiff anti-incumbent winds in November and heightened GOP attacks against “big government.”

Even the smartest political consultants may need time to sort out Tuesday’s lessons.

American voters rejected Republican control in the 2006 congressional elections and the 2008 presidential election. Democrats widely assumed that a top priority, and a winning political issue, was to make health insurance more accessible and competitive.

But now, just 14 months later, voters are snarling at the Democrats they put in charge, leaving them to wonder how to expand services without invoking public wrath.

John Triolo, a Massachusetts independent who voted for Obama in 2008 and for Brown on Tuesday, exemplified the confusing message.

“I voted for Obama because I wanted change,” said Triolo, 38, a sales manager from Fitchburg, Mass. “I wanted change, I thought he’d bring it to us, but I just don’t like the direction that he’s heading.”

Everyone should have health coverage, Triolo said, “but I think we should take the time to look at it, but not ram it down our throat.”

Karla Bunch, a 49-year-old teacher who also voted for Brown in Fitchburg, said, “It’s time for the country, for the taxpayers, to take back their money. It’s not a vote against the president.”

Obama may be as puzzled as anyone by his party’s inability to keep the Senate seat long held by liberal icon Edward M. Kennedy. The president “was both surprised and frustrated” by developments in the Coakley-Brown contest, spokesman Robert Gibbs said while voting continued Tuesday.

Democrats were dismayed last November to see the GOP take over the governorships of New Jersey and Virginia, states that Obama had carried the year before. But Tuesday’s results are more painful and troubling.

Massachusetts is among the nation’s most liberal states, and the candidates made it clear that a Brown victory likely would kill the Democrats’ health care push in the Senate.

Democrats now must ask: Did Massachusetts voters register their discontent based on a decent understanding of the complex health care legislation? Or did conservatives do a better job of framing and spinning the debate, starting with raucous public meetings in August that caught Democrats flat-footed with bogus claims of “death panels”?

The latest AP-GfK poll showed an even split between Americans who support the health care package and those who oppose it. But Republican lawmakers say Brown’s victory proves that public intensity and momentum are on their side, and they plan to build on it throughout the year.

Jon Cowan, president of the Democratic-leaning group Third Way, said centrist and independent voters in 2006 and 2008 were lending their support to Democrats, not granting it permanently. Their message on Tuesday, he said, is “you must hear our concerns and address them seriously if you want our long-term support.” So far, Cowan said, they “still need significant convincing.”

Obama’s campaign clout also will be questioned, although he has ample time to regroup before his 2012 re-election bid.

Surveys show that many Americans hold a dimmer view of government as an institution than they do of the president as an individual. The AP-GfK poll found Obama’s approval rating at 56 percent, about the same as in October. But approval of his handling of specific issues, including health care, is considerably lower.

Underscoring the deep and persistent doubts that Americans seem to have about their government, a slight majority still thinks the nation is on the wrong track. The number ran as high as 78 percent just before Obama defeated John McCain in 2008.

But Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress have been unable to keep the wrong-track number below 50 percent, according to polls that ask the question every month or so. That’s about the average finding from 2003 through 2005, and better than the results from 2006 to 2008.

If Democrats can find the tiniest of silver linings in Tuesday’s results, it’s this: Massachusetts pollsters detected a strong anti-incumbent mood among voters, which could hurt Republicans as well as Democrats. On Tuesday, it mainly hurt Coakley, because her party dominates state politics.

In November, hundreds of Republican senators, House members, governors and other state officials will seek re-election nationwide, and a big anti-incumbent wave might sweep them out with their Democratic brethren.


Associated Press writer Bob Salsberg in Fitchburg, Mass., contributed to this report.


Charles Babington covers the White House for The Associated Press.


  1. hologram5

    I would rather see the bill die, go back to the drawing board and come back with something that has real reform to it.

  2. JerryG

    I totally understand the mistrust and frustration that many Americans have with the current 2 political parties running this country. But, if any of you think for a minute that the political salvation you seek and write about here on a regular basis is going to come from the Republican/Conservative side of the spectrum you are foolish.

    Who of you really believe that when Senator-elect Brown says he’s going to vote for whatever is best  “whether it’s a good Democratic idea or a Republican idea” he is sincere? I will bet $100 to your favorite charity that he will be a good soldier and vote in lock step with the GOP against every initiative that the Democrats put forth – every one of them! Here are just a few:

    Financial regulatory reform – NO

    Financial Consumer Protection Agency – NO

    Health care reform (regardless of how guttered/watered down) – NO (Duh!)

    Future Supreme Court nominee(s) – NO

    Entitlement reform – NO

    Tax Reform – NO

    Troop Rollbacks – NO

    The GOP playbook is to do whatever it takes, no matter what the ramifications are for the country, to block everything Obama wants to do. But, you all go right ahead and keep voting out of anger and frustration for teabaggers and birthers because Obama hasn’t been able to deliver everyting in one year. And when your political phoenix rises from the ashes of President Obama’s missteps I’ll have no doubt you’ll be disgusted with him too!

  3. Carl Nemo

    I hope they vote no on every prosed bill JerryG.  Our government is so corrupt, so fouled up that there’s simply no hope.  Nothing they pass will end up making things better for the American people…period!

    From the waging of engineered wars for the benefit of the MIC in faraway places to healthcare ‘reform’ on the backporch our leaders only excel at one thing; ie., maintaining a SNAFU’d…FUBAR’d government.

    It will take an asteroid incoming setting humanity back to square one in order to clean up not only the U.S., but world governments in general of the evil, agendist, parasites that have wormed their way to the top.

    The U.S., Britain, the Euro Union, the United Nations and many other governments and feelgood bodies such as the U.N. are all controlled by same elements with a criminally disposed agenda; ie., foisting a globalist dysfunctional NWO on us all.  They get paid regardless of the global wreckage they create with their mallegislation and edicts.

    So when our crimpols are work in a bipartisan manner we best all be afraid, very afraid as with this current healthcare bill debacle.  They are not our friends, but once arriving in D.C. climb onboard the corporatist/globalist bandwagon, the end result being our national demise. : |

    Carl Nemo **==


  4. griff

    As far as I’m concerned, the only reason I applaud Brown’s win is in the hopes that it sends the right message to the rest. The Democrats seem to have msread this simple message.

    As you can see, political salvation isn’t coming from the liberal/progressive side either.

    Political salvation will only come when the false choice between “left” and “right” is exposed as the fraud that it is and we Americans start to take aim at the real reasons for our misfortune.

    Financial regulatory reform won’t be successful unless we start listening to people other than the ones that not only created the problem, but benefitted financially on the way up and subsequently on the way back down. Like the fox guarding the henhouse, the people we’re supposed to be regulating are the ones writing the legislation. But we’ll pretty much accept any thing wrapped in the flowing vestments of “reform.”

    A Financial Consumer Protection Agency would end up like any other agency – prone to abuse, corruption, waste, and bribery. We already have several agencies that dropped the ball. You suggest we add another?

    Health care reform is impossible in these economic conditions. Put people back to work making livable wages, end the Federal Reserve monopoly on money and credit, and a few other things, and then we’ll talk.

    The heir apparent to Bader-Ginsburg is openly hostile toward the first and second amendments, to name a few. It certainly won’t break my heart to see that fail.

    Democrats are less likely to implement entitlement and tax reform than the Republicans, so that’s a wash. Unless you define tax reform as raising taxes.

    Since Obama has been in office he has sent more than eighty thousand new troops to Afghanistan, not counting mercenaries. He’s planning on sending more. We are now targeting Yemen and North Africa as possible extensions of the “war on terror.” In Iraq, the much celebrated troop withdrawals from Iraqi cities was an illusion. They redrew city maps so our bases are outside the city limits now. I don’t see troop rollbacks being on the radar. But as a matter of fact, the withdrawal plan that Obama is following in Iraq was originally drawn up by the Bush administration.

    Hmmm. Wasn’t Obama elected out of frustration and anger at Bush and the Republicans? Gee, I wish I could come up with a few catchy names for all Obama’s supporters. I’ll get back to you on that one.

    For those of us that despise the partisan system, we see this as a chance to finally crumble its facade. I’m really sorry your boy couldn’t hack it.   

  5. jim0001

    Financial Regulatory reform? Which favorite forced “NO potential Homeowner left Behind” ? CLINTON… Government is not the answer.

    Health care reform? There is nothing in the proposed 1700 plus pages about health care. It is about control of the unwashed masses by the liberal elite. Where is tort reform? A Doctor pays considerable sums for mal-practice insurance. Go to the post office and discuss your “Death with Dignity”! Government is not the answer.

    Supreme Court nominees? Send some with credentials. Voting for a Supreme Court justice because “poor Sonya worked hard and had atough time and not because of any grounding in the Constitution is reason for rejection.

    Entitlement reform? When our elected officials select the same health care plan they want for me then I’ll believe its a good plan. Why should an elected official get full retirement for a 2 or 6 year tour of duty in public “service”? Why should they get  automatic pay raises. Their constituents should vote as to their performance and compensation. Does your employer allow you to select your compensation?

    Troop rollbacks? Due to our role as ‘Leader of the free world” we have the inherited duty of helping the rest of the world. You cannot negotiate from a position of weakness.

    Our government has NEVER run a sucessful program. medicaid, medicare, ad infinitum… Dept of Energy was formed by Carter to reduce our dependance on foriegn oil. Today with 16 k employees and a 24 billion budget we now import more foriegn oil than ever. Drill baby drill! Our military is the only sucessful thing the Govt has ever done an the DC warriors try to use the defense of our country for social experimentation. Govewrnment is not the answer…

    Where is the tax reform?

    Every elected official in office needs to go, regardless of party. Public service is just that, service not a career. And certainly not of supporting lobbyists and pullin in perks and pork.The people are soveriegn not government. Read the Constitution….

    FEAR YOUR GOVERNMENT, Fear all incumbents…

  6. jim0001

    I just heard the “annointed one” campaigning for the Damnocrat.

    He said brown was “riding around in his truck”. I knew that HE CALLED US BITTER WHITE PEOPLE CLINGING TO GOD AND OUR GUNS”. He just added a new verse.


    HMMMM. Isn’t this profiling?

    It’s ok he’s a liberal. 

  7. griff

    “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” – Thomas Jefferson

    It’s high time we strike a little fear.

  8. almandine

    Amen… we’ve been sold fear for years now.

    Terrorists? Feed ’em fish heads.

    Politicians? Just like buses… another one will come along in a minute, so let this one go right on down the road.

    Stand up and reclaim our legacy. Patrick Henry said it best.


  9. griff

    Would you be referring to this one…?

    “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government – lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.”

    Or maybe this one…?      

    “Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.”

    “If this be treason, make the most of it!”

    “Give me liberty or give me death.”

  10. Kent.Shaw

    “Due to our role as ‘Leader of the free world” we have the inherited duty of helping the rest of the world.”

    Inherited from whom? Bullshit. The US is NOT a “special” nation. It is NOT an “exceptional” nation. This country is NOT “helping” anyone but its big money controllers who are trying to rip off natural resources from other parts of theworld.

    “Our military is the only sucessful thing the Govt has ever done an the DC warriors try to use the defense of our country for social experimentation. “

    This would be the world’s most powerful one trillion dollars a year military? This would be the same military that has been unable to “pacify” one city in Iraq? Yeah. Support the troops. You might as well flush your tax money down the toilet because you’d get more value.

  11. JerryG

    Today, your government just made all of your hopes for throwing out all the rascals even more of a challenge and virtually impossible. The Supreme Court just gave corporate speech the same rights and weight as the individual! If you thought corporate money is corrupting the system now just wait – you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!!!