Why Did Martha Coakley Lose? And Why Did Scott Brown Win?

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on January 20, 2010

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As I type this, Keith Olbermann is sputtering in fury, trying ever-so-desperately to spin Martha Coakley’s loss to Scott Brown in Massachusetts, while issuing any insult he can possibly think of in the direction of Scott Brown, and the Republicans. But despite Olbermann’s efforts to complicate the analysis–and despite his inability to understand what he is trying to analyze–the explanation for the Scott Brown win and the Martha Coakley loss is quite simple.

For one thing, candidates matter. Scott Brown was a great one, and Martha Coakley was a terrible one. Brown smartly channeled discontent with the Obama/Democratic agenda, and used it to propel his campaign at Coakley’s expense. He successfully got independents on his bandwagon, thus helping him overcome the Democratic registration advantage. His “it’s the people’s seat” comment in the debate with Martha Coakley was instrumental in helping him consolidate populist support, and he ran a campaign that was significantly more vigorous than the one run by Martha Coakley and the Democrats.

Speaking of Coakley, her decision to take a vacation from the campaign trail, while Brown got to define himself and her for the benefit of the voters, has to rank as one of the most disastrous ideas ever hatched in the midst of a campaign. Equally disastrous, of course, was her decision to take potshots at Scott Brown’s efforts to campaign at outdoor hockey games, her stated belief that there are no terrorists in Afghanistan, and her revelation that she thought Red Sox legend Curt Schilling was a Yankees player. It takes a startling amount of incompetence for a Massachusetts Democrat to lose a Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy, and by JFK himself, but Martha Coakley exhibited that incompetence in spades.

But it cannot be forgotten that ideology played a role in Scott Brown’s win as well. There was no disguising the fact that validation of the Obama/Democratic agenda was on the line in the Senate race–especially the portion of the agenda dealing with health care reform. No one doubted that Martha Coakley would go to Washington and vote in favor of health care reform, if she were elected. And no one doubted that Scott Brown would go to Washington and sink health care reform as Massachusetts’s next Senator. In bluer-than-blue Massachusetts, Brown’s approach was validated over Coakley’s. Whatever the amount of incompetence and bumbling Coakley exhibited, Massachusetts’s rejection of her–and Barack Obama’s–domestic policy vision constitutes an ideological, philosophical defeat for the Democratic party that transcends campaign competence, or the lack thereof.

Could the Democrats have won if they had run a competent campaign? Possibly. But it likely would have been a close victory, and Democrats still would have been startled by what would have been a significant protest against the Obama/Democratic agenda. Whatever one might say about the quality of the Coakley and Brown campaigns, the conclusion that the voters delivered a negative judgment on the Democratic platform is inescapable.

And now, Republicans have a roadmap to further electoral wins, one provided to them by Brown and by Bob McDonnell, the newly elected Governor of Virginia: Focus on economic issues, run positive and appealing candidates with positive and appealing campaigns, and don’t be afraid to directly take on the White House and the Democratic establishment.

If this approach can pay dividends in Massachusetts, it can pay dividends elsewhere as well–including conservative House districts represented by Blue Dog Democrats.

  • bluecollarbytes

    Whether the voters realized it or not, the Massachusetts election was largely about ideology. Scott Brown ran against an agenda that sprung up from deep Leftist roots. And this happened in a state which is generally as sympathetic to a liberal direction as any. Obama is clearly on a different page, like at the end of the story, when America capitulates completely to National Socialism. Voters aren't willing to go there yet.

  • carolt2

    I am a republican in MA, I just switched to unenrolled in the past week, only to have more of a ballot when I vote.

    I am a Catholic, don't forget that Martha insulted ER workers that have religious beliefs that prevent them from giving out the morning after pill etc. Martha was on a radio show in the last week of the campaign and suggested that “maybe they shouldn't work in ERs” to the host. A day or so later I got text message from Scott's campaign that she was on another radio station and to call and ask why she'd gone so negative. I could not get through, but a nurse did and she was highly offended, said she had been one for 30 years and that there is always someone else to do it if one did not believe in it.

    She said Curt was a Yankee fan, not just player. Scott worked from five am to eleven pm, I heard him all over the radio and on television. For years I have heard him on a local radio show, Howie Carr and was impressed when we was a state senator.

  • ScottBrownForPresident_com

    “It's the economy stupid!” Oh, and Coakley was doing a victory lap in DC just days before the election while Scott Brown and Howie Carr were changing American politics for the next decade. Help make history and get your free Scott Brown for President bumper sticker (while supplies last) at http://ScottBrownForPresident.com

  • ScottBrownForPresident_com

    “It's the economy stupid!” Oh, and Coakley was doing a victory lap in DC just days before the election while Scott Brown and Howie Carr were changing American politics for the next decade. Help make history and get your free Scott Brown for President bumper sticker (while supplies last) at http://ScottBrownForPresident.com

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