Politics

Republican Brown crushes Democrat Coakley for Ted Kennedy’s old US Senate seat

By Branko Brkic 20 January 2010

In a stunning development with major national and international ramifications, Massachusetts state senator Scott Brown soundly defeated Mass. attorney general Martha Coakley to take over the late Ted Kennedy’s seat.

With 99% of the votes counted, Brown gained 52% (capturing a major share of angry independent voters) in a state that US President Barack Obama had carried by a margin of 25% in the 2008 presidential election. Democratic strategists called this loss not only decisive but “positively sinful”.  Coakley won 47% of the vote in a poll where independent voters turned out in large numbers. A Libertarian party candidate, improbably named Joseph L. Kennedy, won 1% of the vote.

Democratic strategists have already spun Coakley’s loss as the result of a too-relaxed campaign early on, and then a misplaced focus on niche issues such as access to birth control information in healthcare reform, that resonated badly with independent voters.

Photo: Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Martha Coakley in Medford, Massachusetts January 19, 2010. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

By contrast, Brown scored especially well with voters who felt strongly the Obama administration was ignoring the real, pressing issues of jobs and the economy – in place of his legislative agenda. Voters were also apparently voting their anger over major bailouts to banks and corporations without a central focus on unemployment. Another key campaign issue raised by Brown was the Obama administration’s plan to try former Guantanamo detainees in civilian courts – or, as Brown said, “I want to spend money on weapons to kill terrorists, not money on lawyers to defend them.”

Veteran political operative and White House advisor for both parties, David Gergen, said it was time for the White House to “set the reset button” to figure out how to work with the populist forces emerging among the American people, i.e. activist independents and the so-called Tea Party dissidents. This question will play heavily on Obama as he contemplates his message for his upcoming State of the Union speech, later this month.

The most immediate impact of the Brown victory, however, is almost certainly going to be on the Obama administration’s central goal – passage of national healthcare reform.

Two different versions of the legislation had passed the two houses of congress just before their Christmas break, and it was headed for a reconciliation committee that would send an agreed-upon version back to the two houses for passage, and then signature by the president. Now, however, the bill faces much grimmer chances in the Senate as Democrats have lost their “super majority” of 60 votes. That margin had allowed them to override any effort by Republicans to stall a final vote through unlimited debate. Brown has promised to vote against any major healthcare bill as too expensive, too costly in terms of lost jobs and involving too much federal government regulation. If the bill is to gain any further traction and passage, the Obama administration and Democratic congressional leadership will be forced to reduce the scale and scope of the bill – or find at least one brave (and foolhardy) Republican prepared to vote with the Democrats, just as the tide on healthcare reform seems to be retreating.

Apart from having a hugely attractive and telegenic family (including a wife who is a local TV personality and a daughter who is an American Idol contestant), Brown first came to national notice as a nude centrefold from Cosmopolitan magazine. He is also an active triathlete and a proud driver of a beat-up SUV. He explains that he posed for the magazine to help finance his law school education. His personal narrative, every bit as much as his campaign positions, clearly attracted voters who were put off by Martha Coakley’s assumption that this senate seat was the Democrat’s “hereditary seat”. In response, Brown’s campaign banners had read “the people’s seat” – and that scored well with voters.

By J. Brooks Spector

For more, read the Washington Post and the New York Times

Main photo: Republican U.S. Senator-elect Scott Brown gestures to the voters at his victory rally in Boston January 19, 2010. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Gallery

Support DAILY MAVERICK & get FREE UBER vouchers every month

An increasingly rare commodity, quality independent journalism costs money, though not nearly as much as its absence can cost global community. No country can live and prosper without truth - that's why it matters.

Every Daily Maverick article and every Scorpio exposé is proof of our dedication to this unshakeable mission. Investing in our news media is by far the most effective investment into South Africa's future.

You can support Independent and Investigative journalism by joining Maverick Insider. If you contribute R150 or more per month you will receive R100 back in UBER vouchers. EVERY MONTH until October 2019.

So, if you'd like to help and do something meaningful for yourself and your country, then sign up to become a Maverick Insider. Together we can Defend Truth.


Analysis

Agrizzi’s Bosasa corruption testimony – an opportunity for real change in South Africa’s politics

By Stephen Grootes

"Let no-one enter here who is ignorant of mathematics" ~ Plato