Massachusetts has voted on Kennedy’s successor. Republican Scott Brown won, and Democrat Martha Coakley contributed an object lesson in How Not To Run A Campaign, losing the seat held by the most liberal member of the Senate…to a Republican.
This morning, I pictured a Marley-like ghostly apparition of Ted Kennedy, following Martha Coakley around from now until she dies, jingling his chains at her and moaning, “Woe! Woe!”
The ultimate irony, of course, is that Ted Kennedy planted the seed for the loss of his own seat. When Kerry ran against Bush, Teddy pushed the state legislature to change the process that allowed the governor to appoint a successor…because the governor at the time was Republican Mitt Romney. There was a lot of talk about how “the will of the people needed to be heard”, so they changed the law to require a special election instead. Fast forward four years, and a Democrat sits in the governor’s chair again…and the Will of the People all of a sudden comes back to bite Kennedy in the ass posthumously.
All over the Intertubes, pundits are already either predicting a bloody rout for the Democrats in the midterm elections, or assuring us that the election was not a referendum on Obama or his health care plan, but I think the Dems had better sit up and take notes. If you can lose Kennedy’s old seat, in a state where Dems outnumber Republicans by three to one, your agenda may not have traction with the public, to put it mildly, and barging ahead with business as usual may cost you dearly come November.
Apparently, Brown’s victory was largely due to his ability to sway the Independent vote. Just like NH, Massachusetts has more “independent” registered voters than Republicans and Democrats combined, and Martha Coakley just found out that you don’t win those folks over by doing some light campaigning in front of folks who already swing your way already. Brown, on the other hand, ran like he actually wanted to win the election, not like he was just waiting for the inevitable coronation.
I think the Democrats’ loss of “Kennedy’s seat” to the Republicans has chipped away at the sense of inevitability that comes with elections in areas heavily dominated by one party. If Massachusetts can vote a Republican into Teddy’s well-worn Senate chair, then nothing’s a sure thing anymore.
One thing’s for sure….it’ll be an interesting election year.