Stunned Democrats ponder humiliation at the polls

A year to the day after his inauguration, Barack Obama and his Democratic allies are suddenly scrambling to save his signature health care overhaul and somehow rediscover their political magic after an epic loss in the Massachusetts Senate race.

Republican Scott Brown rode a wave of voter anger to beat Democrat Martha Coakley. The loss was a stunning embarrassment for the White House. It also signaled big political problems for the president’s party this fall when House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates are on the ballot nationwide.

Brown’s victory was so sweeping, he even won in the Cape Cod community where Sen. Edward Kennedy, the longtime liberal icon, died of brain cancer last August.

“While the honor is mine, this Senate seat belongs to no one person, no one political party,” Brown told his supporters Tuesday night. “This is the people’s seat,” he added to chants of “People’s seat!”

Brown will become the 41st Republican in the 100-member Senate, which could allow the GOP to block the health care bill. Democrats needed Coakley to win for a 60th vote to thwart Republican filibusters.

Brown became the first Republican elected to the U.S. Senate from supposedly true-blue Democratic Massachusetts since 1972.

“I have no interest in sugarcoating what happened in Massachusetts,” said Sen. Robert Menendez, the head of the Senate Democrats’ campaign committee. “There is a lot of anxiety in the country right now. Americans are understandably impatient.”

Brown will finish Kennedy’s unexpired term, facing re-election in 2012. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pledged to seat Brown immediately, a hasty retreat from pre-election Democratic threats to delay his inauguration until after the health bill passed.

Brown led by 52 percent to 47 percent with 100 percent of precincts counted. The third candidate in the race, independent Joseph L. Kennedy, who is no relation to Edward Kennedy, had less than 1 percent.

The local election played out against a national backdrop of animosity and resentment from voters over persistently high unemployment, Wall Street bailouts, exploding federal budget deficits and partisan wrangling over health care.

For weeks considered a long shot, the 50-year-old Brown seized on voter discontent to overtake Coakley in the campaign’s final stretch. His candidacy energized Republicans, including backers of the “tea party” protest movement, while attracting disappointed Democrats and independents uneasy with where they felt the nation was heading.

“I voted for Obama because I wanted change,” said John Triolo, 38, a registered independent who voted in Fitchburg. “I thought he’d bring it to us, but I just don’t like the direction that he’s heading.”

Even before the first results were announced, administration officials were privately accusing Coakley of a poorly run campaign and playing down the notion that Obama or a toxic political landscape had much to do with the outcome.

Coakley’s supporters, in turn, blamed that very environment, saying her lead dropped significantly after the Senate passed health care reform shortly before Christmas and after the attempted Christmas Day airliner bombing, which Obama himself said showed a failure of his administration.


Sidoti reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Beth Fouhy, Bob Salsberg, Steve LeBlanc, Karen Testa, Kevin Vineys and Stephanie Reitz also contributed to this report.


  1. giving-up-in-nc

    It is interesting that one of the tactics that Brown used was to mention as little as possible that he was a Republican.  People are so disgusted with the two parties that for one to win over the other they have to disguise themselves.  

    Brings to mind that old saying “A wolf in sheep’s clothing”.

  2. bjiller

    Stunned?  Only blind partisan Democrats can be stunned.

    Only the most brain dead partisan Democrats could be surprised that the independents have turned against them.  Those would be the same brain dead partisan Democrats who thought that Obama’s election and the change in the Senate was a mandate for their liberal social programs.  As I said at the time, it was no mandate.  It was a simple vote against four more years of Bush’s brain dead foreign policies, including especially Guantanamo, rendition, and torture.  While Obama has made incremental changes in torture policy, he has violated his promise on Guantanamo, which remains open and still helping al Qaeda recruit suiciders such as the man who took out the CIA base in Afghanistan. And rendition goes on, but with more “oversight,”  which I guess means we’ll be sure that the victims are only tortured according to our own standards.

    Plus, rather than sensibly abandoning his campaign promise to go all in on Afghanistan and exiting from that graveyard of empires, Obama has doubled down in support of a corrupt regime with no popular support that barely controls major cities.  Kind of like Johnson in Vietnam. 

    In other words, the neocons have convinced Obama to abandon his good promises and keep his idiotic promises on foreign policy issues.

    Plus, rather than the open debate on health care reform he promised, Obama has let Congress be Congress be bought off by every interest group, behind closed doors, thereby squandering the hope and faith his more naive supporters had placed in or on him.

    Layered into that excrement sandwich is the squandering of taxpayer money on jobs programs that haven’t really worked, and the squandering of even more taxpayer money in support of the bankers who wrecked the economy with no oversight, no meaninful bank reform, and, it turns out, with intentional concealment of material facts from the few members of Congress who aren’t owned by the banks and the electrorate.  Now, the bank-owned Congress wants to kill even the  financial consumer protection agency that was supposed to save the public from more predatory banking practices, and save the economy from the same financial greed that caused the Great Depression and the 2008 crash.  

    So, the independents get the worst of all worlds:  Neocon foreign policy virtually indistinguishable from George W. Bush’s, financial policy by and for the big banks same as the GOP, and drunken-sailer spending while doing nothing to prevent another meltdown for the same reasons. In other words, more privatized profits and socialized losses, just like the GOP.  Almost makes one into a Nader supporter. 

    How could anyone with a brain be surprised that the independents have lost faith in the Democrats given all this?  At least there is a chance with the GOP that their taxes will stay lower.  Plus, it took a Nixon to get us out of Vietnam, and to open relations with China, now our largest trading partner after Canada.

  3. DejaVuAllOver

    Bravo, bjiller.  Even us dumb yanks are starting to figure out that we’ve been had by the latest chief of the neocon mafia and the people of Mass. were the first to get the opportunity to express their anger at Obama’s betrayal.

    Hey, we may not be brain surgeons, but we’re at least smart enough to know that Rahm and Tim and Larry and Barack are trying to kill us.