The Meaning of Scott Brown’s Victory

With all precincts reporting, Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley and Libertarian Joe Kennedy by a margin of 52% to 47% to 1% respectively.  What does Brown’s victory – in the heart of Blue America – mean?  Here’s a couple of key points.

1. Hard work and entitlement.  As Kos rightly points out, voters want you to earn their vote:

In 2006, while researching Democratic gains in Red Montana, I asked a couple of state legislators how they won their tough races. I was looking for the magic message, but instead got a mundane answer: they knocked on doors. Lots of them. And they put tens of thousands of miles on their pickup trucks.

That’s the strategy we saw in reverse in indigo-Blue Massachusetts — a Republican who downplayed his GOP badge while putting in thousands of miles on his pickup truck. 200,000 of them.

Teddy never took his voters for granted, no matter how big an icon he was in the state. Brown didn’t take them for granted either. He was aggressive, engaged, effective, and … lucky as all shit. It’s not every day you get to go up against a candidate who takes everything for granted, neglects to negatively define you, and heads out for vacation while the race is still on.

There’s several messages to learn from this fiasco, but chief among them — if you decide to run for office, then respect the freakin’ voters and work your ass off for their vote. They are angry, frustrated, and looking for a sign that you get their concerns. Going on vacation doesn’t cut it. Campaigning your heart out gets you a good of the way there.

I couldn’t agree more.  And I was glad to see that Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Menendez also realizes this lesson.  He said, “”I have no interest in sugar coating what happened in Massachusetts. There is a lot of anxiety in the country right now. Americans are understandably impatient…  In the days ahead, we will sort through the lessons of Massachusetts: the need to redouble our efforts on the economy, the need to show that our commitment to real change is as powerful as it was in 2008, and the reality that we cannot take a single thing for granted and cannot afford even a second of complacency.”

2. Marc Ambinder bolsters the point that Brown simply out-worked Coakley:

Coakley had 19 events after the primary through Sunday; Scott Brown had 66.

3. Bloody primaries matter.  After her opponents spent over $6 million in campaign ads, Coakley only won 47% of the vote in the Democratic primary.  That means 53% of Democrats did not vote for her.  In the election yesterday, Rasmussen’s poll shows that 22% of MA Democrats voted for Brown.  Coakley simply had no chance of winning with nearly 1 out of every 4 Democrats voting for the Republican.

4. In recent Rasmussen and Suffolk polls, President Obama had approval ratings of 57% in Massachusetts.  Martha Coakley only received 47% of the vote.  In other words, this election was certainly not a referendum on the Obama presidency for a segment of the electorate.

5. All politics is local.  Attorneys General doth not maketh good statewide candidates in MA or in RI.

6. Without a 60 vote majority, Obama’s judicial nominations may have just hit a stumbling block.  This might spell trouble for the two nominations pending in Rhode Island.

7. Silver lining: Joe Lieberman no longer has a stranglehold on the Democratic Party by being the 60th vote.

8. How important was 60 votes anyway?  Kos notes

“..but really, what did 60 get us last year? It empowered Joe Lieberman, gave cover to Blanche Lincoln, provided excuses to Harry Reid, and gave a free pass to Max Baucus. Now we don’t have 60. And like the Republican Senate of the 2000s, if Democrats want to get anything done, they’ll have to do it via reconciliation. Given last year’s track record in the Senate, it certainly can’t make the Senate any less effective.”

9. Defining Democrats and Change.  Drew Westen makes some salient points about the failure of Obama to stand up and be a proud Democrat and the resulting voter anger.

10. The danger of complacency and incumbency.  Finally, it is clear in this election that Coakley attempted to coast to victory and then, upon realizing that Brown had caught up with her, she immediately went negative.  At no point, did Coakley attempt to stand for something or say that she would fight for something.  She let Scott Brown take the mantle of reform, of change, of being the outsider.  In other words, Coakley ran the typical incumbent candidacy in a year that voters don’t really like incumbents.

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4 responses to “The Meaning of Scott Brown’s Victory

  1. Although not a MA voter, people asked me to put off my work and family to help Coakley get elected. They asked me so I could save the SuperMajority, not because this former attorney general coakley was a fine person and noble representative.
    People intimated that we need Coakley to save some incredible agenda of progressive change; without it, we won’t get anything done. Well, considering this supermajority never considered universal health care, and are considering fining me because I can’t afford health care… I can’t donate my time for that. And health care is Their most important issue, not mine.
    I haven’t seen efforts to stop the war or raise employment. I haven’t seen a single federal prison close nor immigration reform. Guantanamo never closed and banks are still exploiting Main Street.

    A supermajority that consists of any ol Democratic senator from Massachusetts might be relatively better than allowing 41 Republicans. But I’m not inspired to fight for relatively better.

    So I think the post hits lots of great points, but underscores the fact that the so-called Change has a lot of liberal/progressive non-believers.

  2. keep it simple, Obama has not been able to accomplish anything meaningful to the working class.

  3. 1. Coakley was not a great candidate — sitting Mass. A.G.s rarely are good candidates for move-ups — but the criticisms of her are grossly overstated. True, she made some bumbles, but all candidates do. The problem was she did not give the voters a good reason to vote for her, but maybe that’s because there wasn’t one. Pres. Obama may remain personally popular in Mass., but his health plan was not polling favorable (see the Suffolk poll you cite), so that couldn’t fit the bill. And the message was basically “vote for me ‘cuz I’m the one who’ll do what the party leaders tell me.” (Those same party leaders are, of course, now trashing A.G. Coakley).

    2. Scott Brown WAS a great candidate. They come along once in a while; the candidate who combines good looks, intelligence, and wit with some real natural instincts and a pretty good message. And although we might think of him as a “newcomer” to the scene, he’s actually been involved in state politics for ten years (5 in the House, 5 in the Senate) plus 6 years in town elective office. A guy who has run that many times — particularly in his ranging Senatorial district — probably knows a little bit about retail politics. And he knew how to pivot, using attacks thrown at him to reinforce his message that “I’m an independent, regular guy.”

    3. Clock management. The truncated schedule — a fairly long and contentious primary for the Dems and a short general with a couple of big holidays in between — was something Brown figured out how to use to his advantage. The teams with the bye-week usually win in the play offs, right? (OK, not San Diego, but we’re not in San Diego, are we?) Brown was able to build up his positives before Coakley even got to the starting gate.

    4. Short term. I gotta believe that there are one or two other potential Dem. candidates who were only too happy to see Coakley stumble. Why hand her a safe seat when another candidate might get a pretty good crack at Brown in 2012? How hard did these folks work to GOTV for Martha? I wonder.

    . . . One thing’s certain; all the D.C. talking heads who didn’t see this upset coming will now be very happy to tell us what it means!

    Here’s what it really means: Brown is a smart and talented guy who had the luck and insight that enabled him to take maximum advantage of a number of factors that all coalesced to allow him to achieve something that everyone else thought was impossible.

    Once in a while it happens.

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