Commentary Magazine


Topic: Creigh Deeds

The PA-12

A friend of COMMENTARY who spent six days in the Pennsylvania 12th district reports that in the race to fill the seat of deceased Rep. John Murtha, the polls don’t necessarily reflect what is happening on the ground. (A recent poll had the Democrat up eight points; most polls have the race within the margin of error.) He e-mails that he has been going door-to-door for Republican Tim Burns: “The Republican base is more motivated than the other guys and it will be all about turn out. Scott Brown spoke here [Friday]. The Dems are pouring it on, and the SEIU is in this big time, but we’ll win this race.”

Democrat Mark Critz picked up the endorsements of local media, but let’s face it: this is meaningless. The overwhelming number of local media outlets also backed Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, and Martha Coakley. And there is a reason why Bill Clinton — who may be the most popular figure Democrats have with blue-collar crowds — came to the district on Sunday. A loss for the Democrats in what has been characterized as a “bellwether” district will likely intensify the panic building in Democratic ranks.

A friend of COMMENTARY who spent six days in the Pennsylvania 12th district reports that in the race to fill the seat of deceased Rep. John Murtha, the polls don’t necessarily reflect what is happening on the ground. (A recent poll had the Democrat up eight points; most polls have the race within the margin of error.) He e-mails that he has been going door-to-door for Republican Tim Burns: “The Republican base is more motivated than the other guys and it will be all about turn out. Scott Brown spoke here [Friday]. The Dems are pouring it on, and the SEIU is in this big time, but we’ll win this race.”

Democrat Mark Critz picked up the endorsements of local media, but let’s face it: this is meaningless. The overwhelming number of local media outlets also backed Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, and Martha Coakley. And there is a reason why Bill Clinton — who may be the most popular figure Democrats have with blue-collar crowds — came to the district on Sunday. A loss for the Democrats in what has been characterized as a “bellwether” district will likely intensify the panic building in Democratic ranks.

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No Place to Hide

Although David Brooks may think Obama is the model of moderation, Obama’s fellow Democrats don’t. Politico reports:

Moderate House Democrats facing potentially difficult re-elections this fall have a message for President Barack Obama: don’t call us, we’ll call you. Interviews with nearly a dozen congressional Democrats on the ballot this year reveal a decided lack of enthusiasm for having Obama come to their districts to campaign for them—the most basic gauge of a president’s popularity.

He’s more toxic than even George W. Bush may have been late in his term. Obama, of course, is still in his first. And it seems the problem for Democrats is not limited to just a few locales. (“But the sense of uncertainty over what-to-with-Obama seen last year in Virginia — where Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds wrestled with whether to run with or from the president before ultimately embracing him in the campaign’s final weeks — now seems to be evolving into a firmer feeling among many centrist Democrats that they’d be better off without him appearing in their districts with them.”)

But the problem is not simply physical proximity. Democratic incumbents can try to avoid appearing on a stage with Obama. But what about all those votes they cast in favor of the agenda that is now the subject of voters’ ire? When Creigh Deeds ran, someone who’d never cast a vote in Congress for ObamaCare or cap-and-trade, his opponent pummeled him, running a campaign designed to capture disaffected independents and angry Republicans. That approach will be all the more effective against those Democrats who are now scared to appear next to Obama but who had no problem rubber-stamping his budget, the failed stimulus, ObamaCare, and cap-and-trade. For those Democrats, there won’t be any place to hide.

Although David Brooks may think Obama is the model of moderation, Obama’s fellow Democrats don’t. Politico reports:

Moderate House Democrats facing potentially difficult re-elections this fall have a message for President Barack Obama: don’t call us, we’ll call you. Interviews with nearly a dozen congressional Democrats on the ballot this year reveal a decided lack of enthusiasm for having Obama come to their districts to campaign for them—the most basic gauge of a president’s popularity.

He’s more toxic than even George W. Bush may have been late in his term. Obama, of course, is still in his first. And it seems the problem for Democrats is not limited to just a few locales. (“But the sense of uncertainty over what-to-with-Obama seen last year in Virginia — where Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds wrestled with whether to run with or from the president before ultimately embracing him in the campaign’s final weeks — now seems to be evolving into a firmer feeling among many centrist Democrats that they’d be better off without him appearing in their districts with them.”)

But the problem is not simply physical proximity. Democratic incumbents can try to avoid appearing on a stage with Obama. But what about all those votes they cast in favor of the agenda that is now the subject of voters’ ire? When Creigh Deeds ran, someone who’d never cast a vote in Congress for ObamaCare or cap-and-trade, his opponent pummeled him, running a campaign designed to capture disaffected independents and angry Republicans. That approach will be all the more effective against those Democrats who are now scared to appear next to Obama but who had no problem rubber-stamping his budget, the failed stimulus, ObamaCare, and cap-and-trade. For those Democrats, there won’t be any place to hide.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Katie Couric will interview Obama live from the Super Bowl because we haven’t seen enough of him, and what he really needs is to communicate more with the American people. Well, that’s apparently what they think inside the White House cocoon. More cowbell!

Mickey Kaus thinks Obama’s excuse mongering about the health-care bill (“we were just about to clean those up [objections to the bill], and then Massachusetts’ election happened”) is a “stunning admission of incompetence.” So maybe the president does have a communications problem, after all. If you can’t read a calendar or follow election polls, you should keep it to yourself.

The Hill: “The House is unlikely to extend President George W. Bush’s cuts for taxpayers earning more than $250,000, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday. … Allowing the tax breaks to expire at the end of the year will spark election-year criticism that Democrats are raising taxes. Congress approved the tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. Democrats are worried about losing seats in November’s midterm election, but Hoyer discounted the idea of his party losing seats solely because of a tax increase.” Well, he’s right — there is also all the red ink, ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, and the sleazy backroom dealings.

Foaming at the mouth and comparing Republicans to Hitler is not such a winning TV-ratings combination anymore. Andrew Malcolm tells us: “Olbermann’s showboat is sinking. Listing in you-know-which direction. It’s as if he thinks talking LOUDER will keep his low cell battery from dying. Worst, Olbermann’s network president, Phil Griffin, is publicly praising him, always an ominous sign in television.”

Dana Perino reminds us: “The context in which the Bush administration was operating is important. President Bush authorized detaining terrorists as enemy combatants in November 2001, two months or so after 9/11. The Shoe Bomber was arrested in December 2001, only a month after President Bush’s order. At that point, there was no system in place to handle enemy combatants. … Perhaps the more interesting context is how months after the administration announced a High Value Detainee Interrogation Group they could not meet after Abdulmutallab’s attempt because … it hadn’t even been set up yet.”

Karl Rove points out: “The budget is filled with gimmicks. For example, the president is calling for a domestic, nonsecurity, discretionary spending freeze. But that freeze doesn’t apply to a $282 billion proposed second stimulus package. It also doesn’t apply to the $519 billion that has yet to be spent from the first stimulus bill. The federal civilian work force is also not frozen. It is projected to rise to 1.43 million employees in 2010, up from 1.2 million in 2008.” And it seems that the mainstream media and the public are increasingly on to this sort of stunt. That may account for all the Democratic retirements: “Democrats are in the midst of the painful realization: Mr. Obama’s words cannot save them from the power of bad ideas.”

But Obama is telling Senate Democrats that “I think the natural political instinct is to tread lightly, keep your head down and to play it safe.” Translation: go ahead, pass ObamaCare, and join Martha Coakley, Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, Chris Dodd, and Byron Dorgan. The president tells them “the answer is not to do nothing.” I think “nothing” is looking like the best of bad options for the beleaguered Senate Democrats, who are now contemplating a serious reduction in their ranks.

The gamesmanship finally ends: “Massachusetts Senator-elect Scott Brown will be sworn in Thursday, according to Jim Manley, the spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Brown’s lawyer today asked that the election results in his state be immediately certified so that he can be sworn in right away. Initially Brown was scheduled to take office next week, but has since decided he wants to vote on upcoming nominations for solicitor general, the General Services Administration and the National Labor Relations Board.” That probably means that Harold Craig Becker’s nomination is in trouble.

Katie Couric will interview Obama live from the Super Bowl because we haven’t seen enough of him, and what he really needs is to communicate more with the American people. Well, that’s apparently what they think inside the White House cocoon. More cowbell!

Mickey Kaus thinks Obama’s excuse mongering about the health-care bill (“we were just about to clean those up [objections to the bill], and then Massachusetts’ election happened”) is a “stunning admission of incompetence.” So maybe the president does have a communications problem, after all. If you can’t read a calendar or follow election polls, you should keep it to yourself.

The Hill: “The House is unlikely to extend President George W. Bush’s cuts for taxpayers earning more than $250,000, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday. … Allowing the tax breaks to expire at the end of the year will spark election-year criticism that Democrats are raising taxes. Congress approved the tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. Democrats are worried about losing seats in November’s midterm election, but Hoyer discounted the idea of his party losing seats solely because of a tax increase.” Well, he’s right — there is also all the red ink, ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, and the sleazy backroom dealings.

Foaming at the mouth and comparing Republicans to Hitler is not such a winning TV-ratings combination anymore. Andrew Malcolm tells us: “Olbermann’s showboat is sinking. Listing in you-know-which direction. It’s as if he thinks talking LOUDER will keep his low cell battery from dying. Worst, Olbermann’s network president, Phil Griffin, is publicly praising him, always an ominous sign in television.”

Dana Perino reminds us: “The context in which the Bush administration was operating is important. President Bush authorized detaining terrorists as enemy combatants in November 2001, two months or so after 9/11. The Shoe Bomber was arrested in December 2001, only a month after President Bush’s order. At that point, there was no system in place to handle enemy combatants. … Perhaps the more interesting context is how months after the administration announced a High Value Detainee Interrogation Group they could not meet after Abdulmutallab’s attempt because … it hadn’t even been set up yet.”

Karl Rove points out: “The budget is filled with gimmicks. For example, the president is calling for a domestic, nonsecurity, discretionary spending freeze. But that freeze doesn’t apply to a $282 billion proposed second stimulus package. It also doesn’t apply to the $519 billion that has yet to be spent from the first stimulus bill. The federal civilian work force is also not frozen. It is projected to rise to 1.43 million employees in 2010, up from 1.2 million in 2008.” And it seems that the mainstream media and the public are increasingly on to this sort of stunt. That may account for all the Democratic retirements: “Democrats are in the midst of the painful realization: Mr. Obama’s words cannot save them from the power of bad ideas.”

But Obama is telling Senate Democrats that “I think the natural political instinct is to tread lightly, keep your head down and to play it safe.” Translation: go ahead, pass ObamaCare, and join Martha Coakley, Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, Chris Dodd, and Byron Dorgan. The president tells them “the answer is not to do nothing.” I think “nothing” is looking like the best of bad options for the beleaguered Senate Democrats, who are now contemplating a serious reduction in their ranks.

The gamesmanship finally ends: “Massachusetts Senator-elect Scott Brown will be sworn in Thursday, according to Jim Manley, the spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Brown’s lawyer today asked that the election results in his state be immediately certified so that he can be sworn in right away. Initially Brown was scheduled to take office next week, but has since decided he wants to vote on upcoming nominations for solicitor general, the General Services Administration and the National Labor Relations Board.” That probably means that Harold Craig Becker’s nomination is in trouble.

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Now Here’s a Political “Civil War”

When the White House begins to sputter, when there is talk of a wave election, and when a party loses a state previously thought to be unlosable, it doesn’t take long for the backbiting and finger-pointing to start. Stuart Rothenberg picks up lots of it. What is wrong with the Obama operation? Well, Democrats have lots of answers:

“It’s hard when you live in this area to understand how bad it is out there,” one veteran Washington, D.C., Democrat told me recently. “People want jobs. They know that it will take time, but they want to be certain that we are working on it.”

The same Democrat noted that this administration, like others, can’t always count on people telling the president how bad things are outside the Beltway. “When the White House calls, most people figure that to get another call, they better give good news. Tell them how bad things are, and they’ll never call you again.”

Others say it’s Rahm Emanuel’s fault. Rothenberg asks: “Rahm Emanuel, whose successes at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are now part of Democratic Party lore and who was the ultimate Capitol Hill insider, missed Massachusetts? But isn’t he always obsessed with the politics of any issue?” The answer according to one Democrat: “It’s the Myth of Rahm.” Oh, we were told he was a political genius. What about David Axelrod? The Democrats don’t like him either. (“One problem, according to some observers, is that David Axelrod, a savvy political strategist who understands message and campaigns, has become an Obama ‘believer’ and has lost some of the perspective he once had.”)

The real problem may be that the sacrificial lambs have figured out they are the sacrificial lambs. (“‘They want to get the heavy lifting done,’ added another Democrat about the White House’s priorities. ‘They don’t care if it costs them the House, the Senate and governors.'”) Or maybe it’s not Obama’s fault. Maybe it’s Nancy Pelosi’s. “She is utterly tone-deaf. She is supposed to look out for her Members, not just make history. It’s reckless what she has done,” one Democratic consultant tells Rothenberg.

Yikes. That’s a lot of upset. We’ve been told there is great division, a near “civil war,” breaking out in Republican ranks. But let’s be honest, that’s nothing compared with what is happening on the Democratic side of the aisle.

Aside from the implications for 2010, it is also an indication that the White House may no longer control the agenda or can count on the support of its congressional allies. After months of hearing from the White House that hugely unpopular ObamaCare would be popular after it passed and watching the president campaign in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts with no impact (at least not a positive one for their party), Democrats have figured out that that White House’s political radar is on the fritz. Democrats who are in unsafe seats — that is virtually all of them — need to fend for themselves, consider what the public is telling them on everything from spending to terrorism, and be willing to tell their party leadership “no.” Otherwise, they now know they risk joining Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, and Martha Coakley — not to mention Chris Dodd and Byron Dorgan — on the list of those who have learned the danger of being tied to the Obama agenda.

When the White House begins to sputter, when there is talk of a wave election, and when a party loses a state previously thought to be unlosable, it doesn’t take long for the backbiting and finger-pointing to start. Stuart Rothenberg picks up lots of it. What is wrong with the Obama operation? Well, Democrats have lots of answers:

“It’s hard when you live in this area to understand how bad it is out there,” one veteran Washington, D.C., Democrat told me recently. “People want jobs. They know that it will take time, but they want to be certain that we are working on it.”

The same Democrat noted that this administration, like others, can’t always count on people telling the president how bad things are outside the Beltway. “When the White House calls, most people figure that to get another call, they better give good news. Tell them how bad things are, and they’ll never call you again.”

Others say it’s Rahm Emanuel’s fault. Rothenberg asks: “Rahm Emanuel, whose successes at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are now part of Democratic Party lore and who was the ultimate Capitol Hill insider, missed Massachusetts? But isn’t he always obsessed with the politics of any issue?” The answer according to one Democrat: “It’s the Myth of Rahm.” Oh, we were told he was a political genius. What about David Axelrod? The Democrats don’t like him either. (“One problem, according to some observers, is that David Axelrod, a savvy political strategist who understands message and campaigns, has become an Obama ‘believer’ and has lost some of the perspective he once had.”)

The real problem may be that the sacrificial lambs have figured out they are the sacrificial lambs. (“‘They want to get the heavy lifting done,’ added another Democrat about the White House’s priorities. ‘They don’t care if it costs them the House, the Senate and governors.'”) Or maybe it’s not Obama’s fault. Maybe it’s Nancy Pelosi’s. “She is utterly tone-deaf. She is supposed to look out for her Members, not just make history. It’s reckless what she has done,” one Democratic consultant tells Rothenberg.

Yikes. That’s a lot of upset. We’ve been told there is great division, a near “civil war,” breaking out in Republican ranks. But let’s be honest, that’s nothing compared with what is happening on the Democratic side of the aisle.

Aside from the implications for 2010, it is also an indication that the White House may no longer control the agenda or can count on the support of its congressional allies. After months of hearing from the White House that hugely unpopular ObamaCare would be popular after it passed and watching the president campaign in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts with no impact (at least not a positive one for their party), Democrats have figured out that that White House’s political radar is on the fritz. Democrats who are in unsafe seats — that is virtually all of them — need to fend for themselves, consider what the public is telling them on everything from spending to terrorism, and be willing to tell their party leadership “no.” Otherwise, they now know they risk joining Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, and Martha Coakley — not to mention Chris Dodd and Byron Dorgan — on the list of those who have learned the danger of being tied to the Obama agenda.

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The Media Catch On: The GOP Is Out to Take Back the House

Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei pronounce: “Republicans aren’t as delusional as some think.” The “some” — in case you missed the bias — is “smart liberals.” They have discovered that, lo and behold, Republicans think they can take back the House. Well, the thinking has been out there for some time, but now Allen and Vandehei, are on the case. They’ve unearthed a secret plan: run against the unpopular Obama agenda. No! Ah, yes. They proceed to tell us that Democrats are in the dumps, a wave is building, and there lots of districts that John McCain carried in 2008 may swing Republican in House races.

The reporters tell us:

48 Democrats now sit in districts won by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008. Nearly every one of these races has at least one credible Republican or will soon get one. In addition, according to National Republican Campaign Committee data, 32 Democrats won with less than 55 percent of the vote in 2008. Of 10 Democratic open seats, Republicans will be on offense in at least eight. In 13 Republican open seats, Democrats have fielded strong challengers in only two.

They hasten to add: “This is the Cantor-GOP spin, but it’s not that far from reality.” (So that means it’s more of fact rather than spin, right?) You sort of wonder where they’ve been for a few months now and what is behind the grumpy reluctance to report what has been apparent for some time now — that the Democrats are in a heap of trouble.

Soon the rest of the media — reluctant as they are to report news adverse to the Democrats — will be following along. Soon it will be conventional wisdom and then anything short of a takeover in the House will be characterized as a phenomenal “win” by Obama. But, really, the predictable media pattern (ignore bad news as long as possible, set the expectations bar, and then spin the results) isn’t all that relevant. If the mainstream media could still influence voters, Creigh Deeds would be governor of Virginia. What matters is the underlying political reality — an electorate that has had it with one-party Democrat rule and wants a course correction. Even the ever-so-helpful liberal media can’t really ignore that.

Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei pronounce: “Republicans aren’t as delusional as some think.” The “some” — in case you missed the bias — is “smart liberals.” They have discovered that, lo and behold, Republicans think they can take back the House. Well, the thinking has been out there for some time, but now Allen and Vandehei, are on the case. They’ve unearthed a secret plan: run against the unpopular Obama agenda. No! Ah, yes. They proceed to tell us that Democrats are in the dumps, a wave is building, and there lots of districts that John McCain carried in 2008 may swing Republican in House races.

The reporters tell us:

48 Democrats now sit in districts won by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008. Nearly every one of these races has at least one credible Republican or will soon get one. In addition, according to National Republican Campaign Committee data, 32 Democrats won with less than 55 percent of the vote in 2008. Of 10 Democratic open seats, Republicans will be on offense in at least eight. In 13 Republican open seats, Democrats have fielded strong challengers in only two.

They hasten to add: “This is the Cantor-GOP spin, but it’s not that far from reality.” (So that means it’s more of fact rather than spin, right?) You sort of wonder where they’ve been for a few months now and what is behind the grumpy reluctance to report what has been apparent for some time now — that the Democrats are in a heap of trouble.

Soon the rest of the media — reluctant as they are to report news adverse to the Democrats — will be following along. Soon it will be conventional wisdom and then anything short of a takeover in the House will be characterized as a phenomenal “win” by Obama. But, really, the predictable media pattern (ignore bad news as long as possible, set the expectations bar, and then spin the results) isn’t all that relevant. If the mainstream media could still influence voters, Creigh Deeds would be governor of Virginia. What matters is the underlying political reality — an electorate that has had it with one-party Democrat rule and wants a course correction. Even the ever-so-helpful liberal media can’t really ignore that.

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The D Handicap

Michael Barone thinks Martha Coakley showed her true stripes and may have tipped the race by ignoring the shoving of reporter John McCormack in front of her eyes. “Coakley, who took much of the month of December off and whose campaign didn’t even bother to run TV ads last week, seems to feel entitled to the Senate seat.” She feels entitled to hide behind an independent candidate at debates and to ignore legitimate questions on foreign policy. Barone thinks that her attitude is now plain for the voters to see — namely, “if little people get in my way, like the mild-mannered John McCormack, well, they just have to be taken out of the picture.”

In fact, as Barone points out, Coakley has proved to be an inept candidate running a weak campaign, raising the real potential for not only an upset win by Scott Brown but also a whole lot of second-guessing about how Democrats (in a state with no shortage of Democrats) wound up with such a mediocre candidate in the first place. Barone jokes, “Democrats might conclude that Martha Coakley was a Republican plant, a Manchurian candidate inserted into the race in order to deprive Democrats of their 60th vote in the Senate.”

Actually, Coakley is beginning to bear an uncanny resemblance to Creigh Deeds, who ran an atrocious campaign, got tied up in knots during debates, and failed to impress anyone. In both cases, the candidates really weren’t equipped to run competitive races with well-articulated positions on the issues. They simply assumed that being the Democrat in the race was enough.

In Virginia, New Jersey, and now Massachusetts we have learned, however, that being the Democrat this year is hardly an asset. It brings up troublesome questions about spending, ObamaCare, deficits, and being a rubber stamp for the Reid-Pelosi-Obama cabal. Playing defense in a year in which the president’s ratings are dropping and unemployment is sky-high isn’t easy. And to make matters worse, Democrats are having trouble keeping their A team on the field and recruiting other top candidates who might be able to bob and weave through hard campaigns. The prospect of a wave election is chasing the better Democratic candidates from the field. The result may be many more races with a Creigh Deeds– or Martha Coakley–type candidate in the race. And that, it turns out, makes for many a cringe-inducing moment for the Democratic faithful.

Michael Barone thinks Martha Coakley showed her true stripes and may have tipped the race by ignoring the shoving of reporter John McCormack in front of her eyes. “Coakley, who took much of the month of December off and whose campaign didn’t even bother to run TV ads last week, seems to feel entitled to the Senate seat.” She feels entitled to hide behind an independent candidate at debates and to ignore legitimate questions on foreign policy. Barone thinks that her attitude is now plain for the voters to see — namely, “if little people get in my way, like the mild-mannered John McCormack, well, they just have to be taken out of the picture.”

In fact, as Barone points out, Coakley has proved to be an inept candidate running a weak campaign, raising the real potential for not only an upset win by Scott Brown but also a whole lot of second-guessing about how Democrats (in a state with no shortage of Democrats) wound up with such a mediocre candidate in the first place. Barone jokes, “Democrats might conclude that Martha Coakley was a Republican plant, a Manchurian candidate inserted into the race in order to deprive Democrats of their 60th vote in the Senate.”

Actually, Coakley is beginning to bear an uncanny resemblance to Creigh Deeds, who ran an atrocious campaign, got tied up in knots during debates, and failed to impress anyone. In both cases, the candidates really weren’t equipped to run competitive races with well-articulated positions on the issues. They simply assumed that being the Democrat in the race was enough.

In Virginia, New Jersey, and now Massachusetts we have learned, however, that being the Democrat this year is hardly an asset. It brings up troublesome questions about spending, ObamaCare, deficits, and being a rubber stamp for the Reid-Pelosi-Obama cabal. Playing defense in a year in which the president’s ratings are dropping and unemployment is sky-high isn’t easy. And to make matters worse, Democrats are having trouble keeping their A team on the field and recruiting other top candidates who might be able to bob and weave through hard campaigns. The prospect of a wave election is chasing the better Democratic candidates from the field. The result may be many more races with a Creigh Deeds– or Martha Coakley–type candidate in the race. And that, it turns out, makes for many a cringe-inducing moment for the Democratic faithful.

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