After weeks of hand-wringing by the Democratic establishment and anxious health care reformers, Senate candidate Scott Brown won the Massachusetts special election over Martha Coakley, upsetting the fragile majority. But how? Media outlets are already weighing in:
Because there are nearly naked pictures of Scott Brown, who defeated her in Tuesday's special election to fill the seat left by the late Edward M. Kennedy.
The morning after the election, a student of gender politics might ask: How different would the story have looked if the shoe — Lack of shoes? Lack of clothes? — actually had been on the female body?
The pictorial in question is a much-circulated 1982 centerfold from Cosmopolitan magazine, in which Brown was declared "America's Sexiest Man." In a two-page slice of beefcake, the then-22-year-old reclines on a blanket with nothing but a serendipitously-placed wrist covering his manly bits. Nice smile, nice abs. Also: Was everyone that hairy in 1982?
The general reaction from the media over the past few months can be described as ranging from "Meh," to "Oh, Sen. Brown!"
The mundanity of everyday events gave way to the exhilaration of my suddenly unpredictable existence. No more Martha taking me for granted. No more Martha calling all the shots. I was living the moment, immersed in the life I always wanted before caution overwhelmed desire.
We were on the dance floor, Scott and I, moving to the music, his hands all over my body politic. Everyone was watching, and I mean everyone - fellow partygoers, bartenders, passersby staring in the windows. Look at me, the Massachusetts Electorate, the bellwether of America!
I think I took my shirt off. I think I didn't care. I remember something about Scott in a pair of Calvin Klein jockey shorts, but it may have been a picture he showed me from his wallet.
In that context, all Scott Brown had to do was show up and 1) be white 2) be male and 3) come off as anything other than an elite. Hence the truck and hunting shirts, a brilliant touch on his campaign's part, and one that will probably win him the election.
After Christmas, the Brown campaign aired an ad beginning with black-and-white footage of John F. Kennedy extolling the value of tax cuts and then morphing into Brown completing the speech. It was risky and ridiculed by some Democrats, but it generated plenty of attention, and Coakley's campaign did not answer with a spot of its own during its five-day run.
There was still no response when Brown's next ad aired, featuring him cruising the state in his pickup truck. It created a sharp contrast with Coakley, whose campaign was still off the airwaves while the candidate remained almost invisible with her run-out-the-clock strategy.
Coakley pollster Celinda Lake acknowledged some missteps on the part of the campaign, such as failing to have enough money to buy TV ads early on to more sharply define Brown. But she said the problem was Washington and the Democratic Party. And she said the president's effort to overhaul health care was not defined enough to earn the support of some voters.
Disgust with Democrats runs so deep, Lake said, that the Coakley campaign was unable to persuade voters that the candidate had spent her career as a prosecutor going after Wall Street.
Recent elections have taught us that when a party in power loses its way, the American people will hold them accountable at the ballot box. Today under the Democrats, government spending is up nearly 23 percent and unemployment is higher than it's been in a quarter of a century. For the past year they've built a record of broken promises, fat cat bailouts, closed-door meetings with lobbyists, sweetheart deals for corporate cronies, and midnight votes on weekends for major legislation that wasn't even read. The good citizens of Massachusetts reminded Democrats not to take them for granted.
Top Democrats say they would not be surprised if, in the wake of Tuesday's special election, a few more of their members decide to retire rather than face tough reelection fights in the coming months.
Beyond that is the posture Democrats will assume for the coming elections. White House officials have signaled a sharper, more populist message in an effort to convince voters that they stand with the people and that Republicans stand with banks and Wall Street and health insurance companies.
Democratic leaders insisted they planned to press ahead with health reform, and met late into Tuesday night in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office. But they made no decisions about how to proceed, now that Brown has swept away the Democrats' filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the Senate.
Brown ended up winning with a solid five-point margin, riding a late surge of support. Though he ran a largely upbeat campaign, the mood of the electorate was angry - as evidenced by extraordinarily heavy turnout for a special election. At times, his campaign sounded like an echo of the very themes that had carried Obama to victory just a little over a year ago. Brown had run against "business as usual" in Washington, and his supporters on Tuesday night chanted, "Yes we can." In case the point still wasn't clear, one of his supporters held a hand-lettered sign: "It's Our Turn for a Change."
While Scott Brown's victory could have a catastrophic effect on health care reform, other parts of the Democratic agenda may survive the loss of Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. Democrats' six month reign with a 60-vote super-majority is over, but a smattering of Republicans may be willing to play ball on their own own pet issues, giving the president's party at least a theoretical shot at passing some form of financial reform, an energy bill – without cap-and-trade – and a watered-down deficit-reduction package.
Immigration reform is probably a goner. But Republicans – no longer free to stand by while Democats muster their own 60 votes – may help out on war funding and other national security issues.
My take: Dems are better off passing reform - and running on it, not from it. If skittish Dems interpret a Coakley loss as a sign they over-read their mandate, and fail to pass a health bill, they'll be worse off than they would be if they run on reform - even if it's unpopular at the outset.
This is fairly straightforward. Failure to pass reform will not stop the GOP from attacking Dems over it. Indeed, failure would enhance, rather than weaken, GOP attacks.
Start the clock. And mark Jan. 29th on your calendars for Democrats to have a chance at a cloture vote on health care — if Republican Scott Brown defeats Democrat Martha Coakley in today's Massachusetts special election.
That's the earliest the winner of today's election is likely to be seated, according to the Massachusetts Secretary of State's office.
It's okay. Sen. Brown was just being a (naked) man. [Washington Post]
McGrory: Seduced by our new senator [Boston Globe]
Voter anger caught fire in final days [Boston Globe]
Democrats play blame game for Mass. Senate loss [Washington Post]
Palin on Brown Win [Time]
Dems brace for more 2010 fallout [Politico]
Democrats find themselves on wrong end of the politics of discontent [Washington Post]
The fallout: Democrats rethinking health care bill [Politico]
Does Brown's Senate Win Mean the End of Health Reform? [Time]
Scott Brown wins, but all is not lost for Dems [Politico]
Start the clock: MA Sen vs. health care [MSNBC]