Wednesday, January 20, 2010

From our US correspondent

From the Shoes US correspondent, also known as "Ann Coulter's Love Toy"

In a stunning act of political lese majeste, the people of Massachusetts have elected a Republican to the “Kennedy seat” in the United States Senate. Martha Coakley’s team ran an undisciplined, but not terrible campaign, her performance in the debate was average and she clearly preferred hob-nobbing with members of her Party’s elite than pressing the flesh in her home state. She made a series of gaffes, most notoriously in this sport-obsessed state when she said on-air and inaccurately that one of Boston’s iconic Red Sox was a New York Yankee (bit like saying Wayne Rooney plays for Chelsea FC). Her campaign was complacent, seemingly justifiably because it believed it was cruising to an election landslide; why waste money on expensive political television advertisements in Massachusetts?

What the Coakley campaign managers didn’t take seriously was the depth of anger toward the agenda of coastal liberal Congressional Democrats (or the “axis of granola”). Team Coakley underestimated how skilled a populist politician Scott Brown had become. They underestimated how much the Republican Party and its sympathizers were working beneath the radar to cause an election upset. Coakley’s managers fooled themselves on what a poor candidate they had until it was too late. Disdainful and lazy, Attorney General Coakley gave the impression that it was somewhat beneath her to ask for votes and seemed to believe that she would be borne aloft to the US Senate by her sense of entitlement alone. Humility is an alien concept to Coakley and previously, so too was defeat; thankfully she was introduced to both of these sensations this morning.

Normally one of these factors alone wouldn’t matter, but the combination of all of them turned the race toxic for the Democrats - and their consequences? It now seems that healthcare, the political cause of Sen. Edward Kennedy’s life will be struck down by the man sent to Washington to replace him. Forty one Senators means the Republicans can happily stall and destroy legislation.

Aside from the messy and intriguing legislative battles ahead in Congress, what happens now? This result reshapes not just the current Congress, but the next. While one special election does not a trend make, this result will embolden and enthuse the Republican Party – and I’m not talking about morale:

    The Republicans will suddenly find excellent candidates coming forward; these will be remarkable, self-funding candidates who’ve sat on their heels waiting for a positive party tide. The gubernatorial victories in Virginia and New Jersey last November hinted at what was to come and this tide has now solidified in Massachusetts

    There will now be a rush of Congressional Democratic retirements, as Congressmen and Congresswomen in marginal districts find the Capitol exits for themselves, before their constituents show them the door in November

    The legislative ambitions of the Democrats on the Hill and in the White House in the remaining months of this Congress will be severely cut-back.

    The GOP is about to receive a massive influx of money; both to the national campaigns and to individual candidates. Scott Brown is the proverbial crow-bar that has pried open major donor’s cheque books; he has given contributors hope that the Republicans can win for the first time since 2004. Similarly, corporations will need to hedge their bets in case of a Republican House from next January.

In the Senate, the GOP will hold their five open Senate seats and they are likely to pick up between five and seven more; this includes the Nevada seat of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who, as is predicted in all recent polls is likely to lose in November

This campaign has been remarkable; one of those unlikely, impossible stories which rarely occur in politics. For the first time since Nixon, Massachusetts has elected a Republican who gained sufficient momentum to take on an entrenched political machine, in a state which defines liberalism. Brown is now a poster boy for the GOP. He ran a campaign which has given his party a blueprint for recovery in the mid-terms, both in New England (which has no Republican Congressmen) and beyond. What role he has to play in the future, is open to conjecture. At first glance, Brown is following a similar trajectory to that of the President. But this is a shallow observation.

Like Brown, Obama was a state senator before his election to the US Senate. Sen. Obama served only two years before being elected President and Brown only has two years left before he needs to run for re-election in 2012, a date which neatly coincides with the next Presidential election. Brown has had a career and worked as a street-fighter against the overwhelmingly Democratic establishment in Massachusetts. Obama had a few years experience as a community organizer (a social worker in the Chicago projects) and never sought to challenge the standard issue 1960s and 1970s liberal dogma which he inherited along with a safely Democratic senatorial seat in Illinois.

If Obama can rise to the Oval Office on such flimsy professional and personal achievements, armed only with a specious litany of random verbs, nouns and adjectives, who knows what Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) can do? There’s no comparison. Can Obama drive a truck? Does he/has he ever served in the armed forces? Has he ever run a successful business? And I don’t remember seeing BO’s spread in Cosmo…

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