Commentary Magazine


Topic: Martha Coakley

Flotsam and Jetsam

Noemie Emery remembers Dean Barnett. Mickey Kaus adds: “This past year I would gladly have traded the entire national staffs of the New York Times, Washington Post and all four TV networks for any two of Barnett, Deborah Orin, Marjorie Williams and Cathy Seipp. They were all immune to Democratic BS.”

Obama’s TSA nominee withdraws (gets dumped?) on a busy news day.

George Will reminds us that the fallout from Obamaism could be much worse than a single congressional election: “Today, Democrats worrying about a reprise of 1994 should worry more about a rerun of the 1966 midterm elections, which began a Republican resurgence that presaged victories in seven of the next 10 presidential elections. The 2008 elections gave liberals the curse of opportunity, and they have used it to reveal themselves ruinously.”

Is Obama bending to reality? “President Barack Obama suggested he’s open to Congress passing a scaled-back health-care bill, potentially sacrificing much of his signature policy initiative as chaos engulfed Capitol Hill Wednesday. Top Democrats said they would press ahead despite growing doubts among rank-and-file members that they can pass a bill they’ve been laboring over for nearly a year. A host of ideas offered in recent days have lost favor.” Lost favor? Perhaps “melted in the aftermath of post-Brown panic” is a more precise description.

Rep. Bart Stupak seems to agree with a scaled-down health-care bill: “Tuesday’s results have created an opportunity for President Obama to deliver a final health-care reform bill. It may mean a scaled back proposal, but a proposal that focuses on the most critical needs of Americans. I remain confident that Congress will pass a health-care bill that finally grants Americans access to affordable, quality health-care coverage.”

Another non-achievement by the Obami: “Just a month after world leaders fashioned a tentative and nonbinding agreement at the climate change summit meeting in Copenhagen, the deal already appears at risk of coming undone, the top United Nations climate official warned on Wednesday.”

If Dennis Blair is on the way out, he’s going out in style, dumping on Obama’s antiterror approach: “The nation’s intelligence chief said Wednesday that the Christmas Day airline bombing suspect should have been treated as a terrorism detainee when the plane landed. That would have meant initial questioning by special interrogators. … Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the Senate Homeland Security Committee that he was not consulted on whether Abdulmutallab should be questioned by the recently created High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group or HIG.”

But then Blair is forced to walk it back in a late-afternoon statement: “‘The FBI interrogated Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab when they took him into custody,’ the statement said. ‘They received important intelligence at that time, drawing on the FBI’s expertise in interrogation that will be available in the HIG once it is fully operational.’” How many Friday news dumps will Blair survive?

More Democratic victims: “Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown’s upset victory over Democrat Martha Coakley Tuesday night altered the national political landscape in the health care debate and could have profound repercussions for the Democratic majority in Congress, including Arkansas’ closely-watched U.S. Senate race. … Two-term incumbent Democrat Sen. Blanche Lincoln, whose seat will be one of the most hotly contested races in the nation in 2010, continues to lose ground in her favorable ratings as well as her job performance among Arkansas voters.” Overall, only 38 percent approve of her performance, while 56 disapprove.

Noemie Emery remembers Dean Barnett. Mickey Kaus adds: “This past year I would gladly have traded the entire national staffs of the New York Times, Washington Post and all four TV networks for any two of Barnett, Deborah Orin, Marjorie Williams and Cathy Seipp. They were all immune to Democratic BS.”

Obama’s TSA nominee withdraws (gets dumped?) on a busy news day.

George Will reminds us that the fallout from Obamaism could be much worse than a single congressional election: “Today, Democrats worrying about a reprise of 1994 should worry more about a rerun of the 1966 midterm elections, which began a Republican resurgence that presaged victories in seven of the next 10 presidential elections. The 2008 elections gave liberals the curse of opportunity, and they have used it to reveal themselves ruinously.”

Is Obama bending to reality? “President Barack Obama suggested he’s open to Congress passing a scaled-back health-care bill, potentially sacrificing much of his signature policy initiative as chaos engulfed Capitol Hill Wednesday. Top Democrats said they would press ahead despite growing doubts among rank-and-file members that they can pass a bill they’ve been laboring over for nearly a year. A host of ideas offered in recent days have lost favor.” Lost favor? Perhaps “melted in the aftermath of post-Brown panic” is a more precise description.

Rep. Bart Stupak seems to agree with a scaled-down health-care bill: “Tuesday’s results have created an opportunity for President Obama to deliver a final health-care reform bill. It may mean a scaled back proposal, but a proposal that focuses on the most critical needs of Americans. I remain confident that Congress will pass a health-care bill that finally grants Americans access to affordable, quality health-care coverage.”

Another non-achievement by the Obami: “Just a month after world leaders fashioned a tentative and nonbinding agreement at the climate change summit meeting in Copenhagen, the deal already appears at risk of coming undone, the top United Nations climate official warned on Wednesday.”

If Dennis Blair is on the way out, he’s going out in style, dumping on Obama’s antiterror approach: “The nation’s intelligence chief said Wednesday that the Christmas Day airline bombing suspect should have been treated as a terrorism detainee when the plane landed. That would have meant initial questioning by special interrogators. … Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the Senate Homeland Security Committee that he was not consulted on whether Abdulmutallab should be questioned by the recently created High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group or HIG.”

But then Blair is forced to walk it back in a late-afternoon statement: “‘The FBI interrogated Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab when they took him into custody,’ the statement said. ‘They received important intelligence at that time, drawing on the FBI’s expertise in interrogation that will be available in the HIG once it is fully operational.’” How many Friday news dumps will Blair survive?

More Democratic victims: “Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown’s upset victory over Democrat Martha Coakley Tuesday night altered the national political landscape in the health care debate and could have profound repercussions for the Democratic majority in Congress, including Arkansas’ closely-watched U.S. Senate race. … Two-term incumbent Democrat Sen. Blanche Lincoln, whose seat will be one of the most hotly contested races in the nation in 2010, continues to lose ground in her favorable ratings as well as her job performance among Arkansas voters.” Overall, only 38 percent approve of her performance, while 56 disapprove.

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In Big Trouble

John Judis at the New Republic doesn’t mince words:

Bill Clinton didn’t know he was in big trouble until the very eve of the November 1994 election. Barack Obama knows now, barely a year into his presidency. While the party loyalists can blame Martha Coakley’s defeat on her ignorance of Red Sox baseball, it was clearly a message to the president and his party. Yes, a less inept candidate might have beaten Scott Brown, but if Obama and his program had been more popular in Massachusetts, even Coakley could have won–and by ten points or more.

He makes a smart observation that most liberals refuse to recognize: it’s the substance of the health-care bill and the backroom dealings that have driven the enthusiasm gap on the other side and dispirited Obama’s own base:

Obama’s health care plan has provoked a combination of right-wing and left-wing populism. The middle class and senior citizens see it as a program that taxes and takes benefits away from them in order to help those without insurance–the out groups–and to enrich the insurance companies themselves. They didn’t invent this perception out of thin air: It derived in part from the plan to tax “Cadillac” health care plans (which are sometimes held by unionized middle class workers), penalize workers who don’t buy insurance, and cut future Medicare spending, while providing new subscribers and profits for the insurance companies. Undoubtedly, the prior perception of Obama’s financial policies reinforced these suspicions about his health care plan, which is now as unpopular as the bank bailout.

Oblivious White House spinners and equally dense lefty bloggers keep insisting that the answer is “More of the same!” But there’s a price to be paid for rushing through behind closed doors a bill so atrocious that it has brought together Jane Hamsher and Bill Kristol, the Nation and National Review, and other political odd couples.

Judis connects the health-care debacle to a more fundamental failing of Obama: his inability to speak to and connect with Middle America. Really, how could a Democratic president push for a bill in which middle-class Americans are required under threat of prosecution to buy expensive health-care policies they don’t want from Big Insurance? We got there because Obama never put forth a coherent plan for what he wanted, and the bill that emerged was the remnants, the lowest common denominator, of what remained after the Senate had discounted the views of Republicans and given up on the pipe dream of the Left (i.e., the public option). The White House convinced itself that middle-class voters were dupes and fools who would celebrate this awful legislation.

Instead, Obama’s sloth (or was it lack of skill and know-how?) in ceding his key policy initiative to the Congress and his contempt for the intelligence of voters — who were expected to be “sold” on a bill so bad that it required closed-door bribery to pass — has cost him dearly. Judis is right: Obama is in big trouble, as are his Democratic allies in Congress. (How long before Harry Reid announces his retirement?) Martha Coakley was a victim, not the cause, of the debacle last night. Had Obama not mishandled a once-in-a-lifetime political opportunity, she’d be heading to the Senate.

John Judis at the New Republic doesn’t mince words:

Bill Clinton didn’t know he was in big trouble until the very eve of the November 1994 election. Barack Obama knows now, barely a year into his presidency. While the party loyalists can blame Martha Coakley’s defeat on her ignorance of Red Sox baseball, it was clearly a message to the president and his party. Yes, a less inept candidate might have beaten Scott Brown, but if Obama and his program had been more popular in Massachusetts, even Coakley could have won–and by ten points or more.

He makes a smart observation that most liberals refuse to recognize: it’s the substance of the health-care bill and the backroom dealings that have driven the enthusiasm gap on the other side and dispirited Obama’s own base:

Obama’s health care plan has provoked a combination of right-wing and left-wing populism. The middle class and senior citizens see it as a program that taxes and takes benefits away from them in order to help those without insurance–the out groups–and to enrich the insurance companies themselves. They didn’t invent this perception out of thin air: It derived in part from the plan to tax “Cadillac” health care plans (which are sometimes held by unionized middle class workers), penalize workers who don’t buy insurance, and cut future Medicare spending, while providing new subscribers and profits for the insurance companies. Undoubtedly, the prior perception of Obama’s financial policies reinforced these suspicions about his health care plan, which is now as unpopular as the bank bailout.

Oblivious White House spinners and equally dense lefty bloggers keep insisting that the answer is “More of the same!” But there’s a price to be paid for rushing through behind closed doors a bill so atrocious that it has brought together Jane Hamsher and Bill Kristol, the Nation and National Review, and other political odd couples.

Judis connects the health-care debacle to a more fundamental failing of Obama: his inability to speak to and connect with Middle America. Really, how could a Democratic president push for a bill in which middle-class Americans are required under threat of prosecution to buy expensive health-care policies they don’t want from Big Insurance? We got there because Obama never put forth a coherent plan for what he wanted, and the bill that emerged was the remnants, the lowest common denominator, of what remained after the Senate had discounted the views of Republicans and given up on the pipe dream of the Left (i.e., the public option). The White House convinced itself that middle-class voters were dupes and fools who would celebrate this awful legislation.

Instead, Obama’s sloth (or was it lack of skill and know-how?) in ceding his key policy initiative to the Congress and his contempt for the intelligence of voters — who were expected to be “sold” on a bill so bad that it required closed-door bribery to pass — has cost him dearly. Judis is right: Obama is in big trouble, as are his Democratic allies in Congress. (How long before Harry Reid announces his retirement?) Martha Coakley was a victim, not the cause, of the debacle last night. Had Obama not mishandled a once-in-a-lifetime political opportunity, she’d be heading to the Senate.

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If You Lose Barney Frank. . .

At some point, the saner Democrats have to call a halt to the Obami’s march over the political … what was it? Ah, yes … precipice. That it came less than 12 hours after the Massachusetts Senate vote and from a liberal stalwart like Barney Frank is the only mild surprise. He declares ObamaCare kaput. Hotline reports:

“I think the measure that would have passed, that is, some compromise between the House and Senate bill, which I would have voted for, although there were some aspects of both bills I would have liked to see change, I think that’s dead,” Frank said in an interview Wednesday morning on Sirius-XM Radio. “It is certainly the case that the bill that would have passed, a compromise between the House and Senate bills, isn’t going to pass, in my judgment, and certainly shouldn’t. … I know some of my Democratic colleagues had been thinking about ways to, in effect, get around the results by working in various parliamentary ways, looking at the rules, trying to get a health care bill passed that would have been the same bill that would have passed if [MA AG] Martha Coakley [D] had won, and I think that’s a mistake,” Frank said. “I will not support an effort to push through a House-Senate compromise bill despite an election. I’m disappointed in how it came out, but I think electoral results have to be respected.”

We are going to have a full week of this, and pushback from liberals, followed by counter-pushback from scared moderates before the State of the Union. By then the table will have been set and a new reality will have taken hold. Obama seems a bystander once again. He’s no longer shaping events or in command of his party. It’s every lawmaker for himself. And given Frank’s long track record in Democratic politics and talent for political survival (he’s escaped more than one near political death experience), I suspect that fellow Democrats are going to be far more inclined to listen to his advice than to Obama’s.

UPDATE: Frank has company, according to this report:

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) told a local reporter “it’s probably back to the drawing board on health care, which is unfortunate.” Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) told MSNBC this morning he will advise Democratic leaders to scrap the big bill and move small, more popular pieces that can attract Republicans. And Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) said his leadership is “whistling past the graveyard” if they think Brown’s win won’t force a rethinking of the health care plan.

At some point, the saner Democrats have to call a halt to the Obami’s march over the political … what was it? Ah, yes … precipice. That it came less than 12 hours after the Massachusetts Senate vote and from a liberal stalwart like Barney Frank is the only mild surprise. He declares ObamaCare kaput. Hotline reports:

“I think the measure that would have passed, that is, some compromise between the House and Senate bill, which I would have voted for, although there were some aspects of both bills I would have liked to see change, I think that’s dead,” Frank said in an interview Wednesday morning on Sirius-XM Radio. “It is certainly the case that the bill that would have passed, a compromise between the House and Senate bills, isn’t going to pass, in my judgment, and certainly shouldn’t. … I know some of my Democratic colleagues had been thinking about ways to, in effect, get around the results by working in various parliamentary ways, looking at the rules, trying to get a health care bill passed that would have been the same bill that would have passed if [MA AG] Martha Coakley [D] had won, and I think that’s a mistake,” Frank said. “I will not support an effort to push through a House-Senate compromise bill despite an election. I’m disappointed in how it came out, but I think electoral results have to be respected.”

We are going to have a full week of this, and pushback from liberals, followed by counter-pushback from scared moderates before the State of the Union. By then the table will have been set and a new reality will have taken hold. Obama seems a bystander once again. He’s no longer shaping events or in command of his party. It’s every lawmaker for himself. And given Frank’s long track record in Democratic politics and talent for political survival (he’s escaped more than one near political death experience), I suspect that fellow Democrats are going to be far more inclined to listen to his advice than to Obama’s.

UPDATE: Frank has company, according to this report:

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) told a local reporter “it’s probably back to the drawing board on health care, which is unfortunate.” Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) told MSNBC this morning he will advise Democratic leaders to scrap the big bill and move small, more popular pieces that can attract Republicans. And Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) said his leadership is “whistling past the graveyard” if they think Brown’s win won’t force a rethinking of the health care plan.

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Time for Change

If you think we’ve been tough on Obama around here, take a look at Mort Zuckerman’s blast at Obama in his piece entitled “He’s Done Everything Wrong”:

He’s misjudged the character of the country in his whole approach. There’s the saying, “It’s the economy, stupid.” He didn’t get it. He was determined somehow or other to adopt a whole new agenda. He didn’t address the main issue.

This health-care plan is going to be a fiscal disaster for the country. Most of the country wanted to deal with costs, not expansion of coverage. This is going to raise costs dramatically.

In the campaign, he said he would change politics as usual. He did change them. It’s now worse than it was. I’ve now seen the kind of buying off of politicians that I’ve never seen before. It’s politically corrupt and it’s starting at the top. It’s revolting.

The corruption he is referring to is the Cash for Cloture deals, of course. (“Five states got deals on health care—one of them was Harry Reid’s. It is disgusting, just disgusting.”) He doesn’t like the union deal on Cadillac health plans either. Then there’s Obama’s inability to connect with voters — a combination of overexposure and remoteness. (Hard to pull off, I know.) Okay, he’s didn’t do everything wrong — just the “major things.” Read More

If you think we’ve been tough on Obama around here, take a look at Mort Zuckerman’s blast at Obama in his piece entitled “He’s Done Everything Wrong”:

He’s misjudged the character of the country in his whole approach. There’s the saying, “It’s the economy, stupid.” He didn’t get it. He was determined somehow or other to adopt a whole new agenda. He didn’t address the main issue.

This health-care plan is going to be a fiscal disaster for the country. Most of the country wanted to deal with costs, not expansion of coverage. This is going to raise costs dramatically.

In the campaign, he said he would change politics as usual. He did change them. It’s now worse than it was. I’ve now seen the kind of buying off of politicians that I’ve never seen before. It’s politically corrupt and it’s starting at the top. It’s revolting.

The corruption he is referring to is the Cash for Cloture deals, of course. (“Five states got deals on health care—one of them was Harry Reid’s. It is disgusting, just disgusting.”) He doesn’t like the union deal on Cadillac health plans either. Then there’s Obama’s inability to connect with voters — a combination of overexposure and remoteness. (Hard to pull off, I know.) Okay, he’s didn’t do everything wrong — just the “major things.”

Zuckerman doesn’t bother detailing the long list of foreign-policy screwups – the failed Middle East gambit, dumping on our allies in the Czech Republic and Poland, frittering away a year on “engaging” Iran, the appallingly disengaged reaction to three domestic Islamic jihadist attacks, etc. Zuckerman gives Obama credit for “improving our image” in the world, but then explains:

Let me tell you what a major leader said to me recently. “We are convinced,” he said, “that he is not strong enough to confront his enemy. We are concerned,” he said “that he is not strong to support his friends.”

And Zuckerman warns that, at this rate, Obama will be a one-term president and “succeed” only in reviving the GOP.

Aside from the helpful catalog of Obama’s blunders, Zuckerman captures the amazement and disappointment that much of the chattering class must be experiencing. Their political messiah has been revealed as not only human but as a rather incompetent and foolish one. The political superstar has become a Jimmy Carter-esque figure from whom members of his party will now have to distance themselves to survive.

Conservatives shake their heads in disbelief that the media mavens are shocked, shocked to find that Obama is less than meets the eye. They snicker that only now is there some recognition that Obama was adept at winning but lacks both a reasonable governing philosophy and the executive skills to excel in the job. Conservatives spent an entire election trying to point out Obama’s lack of experience and his leftist bent. They warned and researched and sounded the alarm. But the media spinners, like so many Americans, wanted to believe that Obama was a politician like no other and that they had latched onto a superhuman figure of extraordinary political skill. They were wrong.

So what happens now? The choice, we hear, is between doubling-down or reversing course. But there are also the competency and connectivity issues. How does Obama suddenly learn to govern and take back the reins from the Reid-Pelosi machine? (And really, what’s the point if he hands it to the Emanuel-Axelrod machine?) And then how does he transform his personality? It’s quite an uphill climb, and it’s tempting to write him off and to declare game, set, and match. But other presidents have come back and revived their presidencies; this one just has a deeper hole (dug more swiftly) out of which to climb.

It starts, however, with the humility to realize that this is not the Republicans’ fault, or Chris Christie’s or Bob McDonnell’s or Martha Coakley’s doing. It’s not even attributable to those Tea Party protesters (they’re the effect, not the cause, of the president’s political troubles). The fault is Obama’s. Whether he publicly confesses that fact or not, he’ll have to act like it is.

Ironically, all that mumbo-jumbo about “change” finally has some concrete meaning. Little did Obama imagine that to rescue his presidency, he’d have to change himself, not the country.

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Brown on Terrorism

We remarked last night that the Christmas Day bombing and the Massachusetts candidates’ differing reactions may have been more telling than political observers imagined. The Scott Brown campaign agrees, as Andy McCarthy notes:

It was national security that put real distance between Scott Brown and Martha Coakley. “People talk about the potency of the health-care issue,” Brown’s top strategist, Eric Fehrnstrom, told National Review’s Robert Costa, “but from our own internal polling, the more potent issue here in Massachusetts was terrorism and the treatment of enemy combatants.” There is a powerful lesson here for Republicans, and here’s hoping they learn it.

Brown’s remarks on national security last night picked up where the campaign left off. They were noteworthy:

And let me say this, with respect to those who wish to harm us, I believe that our Constitution and laws exist to protect this nation — they do not grant rights and privileges to enemies in wartime. In dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, not lawyers to defend them.

Now that’s a message, stated simply and matter of factly, which I suspect will resonate strongly with the public in 2010, unless the Obami get off their “not Bush” anti-terrorism approach. Perhaps the Obami will retreat on giving KSM a civilian trial. Maybe they’ll decide to utilize military commissions to try terrorists. But if not, and if KSM’s trial (at the cost of at least $200M per year) moves ahead, expect it to become yet another issue that Republicans will utilize to great advantage. It’s precisely the sort of “What could they be thinking inside the Beltway?” issue that will appeal to both Republicans and independents, as well as many Democrats who can’t figure out why we’d pay hundreds of millions of dollars to provide a publicity platform to those who want nothing more than to recruit more followers to the cause of murdering Americans.

It’s not simply a national security argument, as Brown pointed out, but a financial one too. And most important, it highlights the populist message Brown rode to victory: the ultra-leftists running Washington D.C. are out of touch with ordinary Americans. Obama likes to say he’s defending “our values” when he declares his intention to close Guantanamo, cease enhanced interrogations, and give terrorists the same constitutional rights as common criminals. Brown argued that Obama has it backward. Our values and our Constitution require no such accommodation to butchers; they require we use all reasonable methods at our disposal to defend American lives and destroy the enemy. Brown’s position has the advantage of being right on the merits, and both right and potent on the politics.

We remarked last night that the Christmas Day bombing and the Massachusetts candidates’ differing reactions may have been more telling than political observers imagined. The Scott Brown campaign agrees, as Andy McCarthy notes:

It was national security that put real distance between Scott Brown and Martha Coakley. “People talk about the potency of the health-care issue,” Brown’s top strategist, Eric Fehrnstrom, told National Review’s Robert Costa, “but from our own internal polling, the more potent issue here in Massachusetts was terrorism and the treatment of enemy combatants.” There is a powerful lesson here for Republicans, and here’s hoping they learn it.

Brown’s remarks on national security last night picked up where the campaign left off. They were noteworthy:

And let me say this, with respect to those who wish to harm us, I believe that our Constitution and laws exist to protect this nation — they do not grant rights and privileges to enemies in wartime. In dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, not lawyers to defend them.

Now that’s a message, stated simply and matter of factly, which I suspect will resonate strongly with the public in 2010, unless the Obami get off their “not Bush” anti-terrorism approach. Perhaps the Obami will retreat on giving KSM a civilian trial. Maybe they’ll decide to utilize military commissions to try terrorists. But if not, and if KSM’s trial (at the cost of at least $200M per year) moves ahead, expect it to become yet another issue that Republicans will utilize to great advantage. It’s precisely the sort of “What could they be thinking inside the Beltway?” issue that will appeal to both Republicans and independents, as well as many Democrats who can’t figure out why we’d pay hundreds of millions of dollars to provide a publicity platform to those who want nothing more than to recruit more followers to the cause of murdering Americans.

It’s not simply a national security argument, as Brown pointed out, but a financial one too. And most important, it highlights the populist message Brown rode to victory: the ultra-leftists running Washington D.C. are out of touch with ordinary Americans. Obama likes to say he’s defending “our values” when he declares his intention to close Guantanamo, cease enhanced interrogations, and give terrorists the same constitutional rights as common criminals. Brown argued that Obama has it backward. Our values and our Constitution require no such accommodation to butchers; they require we use all reasonable methods at our disposal to defend American lives and destroy the enemy. Brown’s position has the advantage of being right on the merits, and both right and potent on the politics.

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Still Pointing Fingers

The Washington Post editors acknowledge the message of the Massachusetts race:

The hard truth for Democrats is that the Massachusetts election resonates with national polling results. Voters, not just in Massachusetts and certainly not just in the Republican Party, are worried about government spending. Budget deficits and the national debt alarm many Americans, and rightly so. Voters also are disappointed that President Obama’s promises of pragmatic, bipartisan cooperation have not been fulfilled. On that score, too, we sympathize.

(By the way, that’s a far cry from the preceding day’s take by Fred Hiatt, which Max pointed out was comically generous, even by grading-on-the-curve standards.) So the editors urge Obama to ignore his liberal base, which “will conclude that he needs to be more combative and ideological.” That’s a start.

But then they can’t pass up the opportunity to bash the other side, the party that has won an impressive string of victories and made that exact case against Obama’s overreach. The editors warn Republicans:

With their scare talk of a “government takeover” of health care, and their demagogic about-face on Medicare savings, they no doubt feel they’ve done well for themselves. But ultimately we don’t believe voters will reward a party that just says no, either; Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell won with a very different promise, of a pragmatic and cooperative conservatism.

Okay that takes some nerve. It was the Post that vilified McDonnell, portraying him as a whacked-out extremist bent on sending women back to the dark ages. But beyond the jaw-dropping hypocrisy, the editors seem a bit disingenuous in this equal-opportunity blame-mongering: don’t the conservatives have a point on health care? Obama is proposing to slash $500 billion from Medicare. And Obama is proposing a new entitlement program with unprecedented powers for the federal government. That explains, after all, why so many voters are freaked out.

So what do the Post editors suggest? They seem reluctant to assign the full measure of blame where it rightly belongs. And it doesn’t belong to poor Martha Coakley or the mean Republicans. No, the president and his party have only themselves to blame. And the sooner they and their spinners stop looking for other targets, the faster they can get on with the business of political recovery.

The Washington Post editors acknowledge the message of the Massachusetts race:

The hard truth for Democrats is that the Massachusetts election resonates with national polling results. Voters, not just in Massachusetts and certainly not just in the Republican Party, are worried about government spending. Budget deficits and the national debt alarm many Americans, and rightly so. Voters also are disappointed that President Obama’s promises of pragmatic, bipartisan cooperation have not been fulfilled. On that score, too, we sympathize.

(By the way, that’s a far cry from the preceding day’s take by Fred Hiatt, which Max pointed out was comically generous, even by grading-on-the-curve standards.) So the editors urge Obama to ignore his liberal base, which “will conclude that he needs to be more combative and ideological.” That’s a start.

But then they can’t pass up the opportunity to bash the other side, the party that has won an impressive string of victories and made that exact case against Obama’s overreach. The editors warn Republicans:

With their scare talk of a “government takeover” of health care, and their demagogic about-face on Medicare savings, they no doubt feel they’ve done well for themselves. But ultimately we don’t believe voters will reward a party that just says no, either; Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell won with a very different promise, of a pragmatic and cooperative conservatism.

Okay that takes some nerve. It was the Post that vilified McDonnell, portraying him as a whacked-out extremist bent on sending women back to the dark ages. But beyond the jaw-dropping hypocrisy, the editors seem a bit disingenuous in this equal-opportunity blame-mongering: don’t the conservatives have a point on health care? Obama is proposing to slash $500 billion from Medicare. And Obama is proposing a new entitlement program with unprecedented powers for the federal government. That explains, after all, why so many voters are freaked out.

So what do the Post editors suggest? They seem reluctant to assign the full measure of blame where it rightly belongs. And it doesn’t belong to poor Martha Coakley or the mean Republicans. No, the president and his party have only themselves to blame. And the sooner they and their spinners stop looking for other targets, the faster they can get on with the business of political recovery.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Odd that Saudi Arabia isn’t contributing anything to Haiti, or even covering it on English-language state news. “It seems it was God’s little joke to hand the greatest supplies of oil and natural gas to a people who part with their riches for their own ends only.”

House Democrats are saying they aren’t voting for the Senate health-care bill. Maybe they won’t vote again for the House bill.

Democratic pollster and strategist Douglas Schoen: “The defeat of Martha Coakley represents a complete repudiation of President Obama’s domestic agenda, going well beyond health care. Massachusetts voters made it clear tonight with the decisive victory they gave to Republican Scott Brown that they want and expect the administration to pursue a dramatically different approach.” And he’s a Democrat.

Sen. Jim Webb is calling foul on the gamesmanship: “It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.” Could it be that the White House has lost control of the process?

Lanny Davis is pleading for sanity: “Liberal Democrats might attempt to spin the shocking victory of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts by claiming that the loss was a result of a poor campaign by Martha Coakley. Would that it were so. This was a defeat not of the messenger, but of the message—and the sooner progressive Democrats face up to that fact, the better. It’s the substance, stupid! … The question is, will we stop listening to the strident, purist base of our party who seem to prefer defeat to winning elections and no change at all if they don’t get all the change they want. Stay tuned.”

Michael Gerson chides the see-no-danger Democrats: “So, a Republican has convincingly won Ted Kennedy’s former Senate seat. After opposing health reform. And supporting the waterboarding of terrorists. And appearing as a nude centerfold. In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by three to one. And where Republicans haven’t won a Senate election since 1972. After a high-profile visit by President Obama. Who won the state by 26 points last year. But who now carries no political weight in the bluest state in the country. With vicious, public recriminations starting among Democrats even before election day. Following major losses in Virginia and New Jersey. All of which led one popular Democratic blog to argue: ‘Why Massachusetts doesn’t matter.’”

Hard to argue that: “This is the first time in years that David Gergen has helped elect a Republican.” The line “This is the people’s seat” is going to go down with “I paid for this microphone” in campaign lore.

Chris Cillizza observes: “With the Coakley loss now in the rear view mirror, the attention of the political world will now quickly turn to the question of whether or not congressional Democrats — particularly those in swing areas — will start jumping ship.” I think the only question is how many jump. “Several Democratic operatives acknowledged privately over the past few days that a Coakley defeat could put control of the House in play if enough targeted members head for the hills. It remains to be seen whether those doomsday predictions come to pass but it’s now clear that Democrats must work day in and day out to avoid broad losses outside of the historic norms for a first term, midterm election.”

Hans von Spakovsky looks for clues to White House meddling in the New Black Panther Party case: “Perhaps the single most important question that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the White House are refusing to answer in the growing scandal (for the stonewalling and subpoena violations make it a scandal) is which political appointees were involved in the obviously wrongful decision to dismiss the lawsuit — a civil suit filed under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Newly released White House visitor records present strong circumstantial evidence of White House involvement in what should have been an independent and impartial law-enforcement decision.”

Before the returns were in last night, from Stuart Rothenberg: “If Brown wins, and he may, it will be the biggest political upset of my adult life. Some have compared a possible Republican win to Democrat Harris Wofford’s 1991 Pennsylvania special election Senate victory over Republican Dick Thornburgh, who was U.S. attorney general. But to me, a Brown win would be much bigger.” Yes, it is.

Odd that Saudi Arabia isn’t contributing anything to Haiti, or even covering it on English-language state news. “It seems it was God’s little joke to hand the greatest supplies of oil and natural gas to a people who part with their riches for their own ends only.”

House Democrats are saying they aren’t voting for the Senate health-care bill. Maybe they won’t vote again for the House bill.

Democratic pollster and strategist Douglas Schoen: “The defeat of Martha Coakley represents a complete repudiation of President Obama’s domestic agenda, going well beyond health care. Massachusetts voters made it clear tonight with the decisive victory they gave to Republican Scott Brown that they want and expect the administration to pursue a dramatically different approach.” And he’s a Democrat.

Sen. Jim Webb is calling foul on the gamesmanship: “It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.” Could it be that the White House has lost control of the process?

Lanny Davis is pleading for sanity: “Liberal Democrats might attempt to spin the shocking victory of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts by claiming that the loss was a result of a poor campaign by Martha Coakley. Would that it were so. This was a defeat not of the messenger, but of the message—and the sooner progressive Democrats face up to that fact, the better. It’s the substance, stupid! … The question is, will we stop listening to the strident, purist base of our party who seem to prefer defeat to winning elections and no change at all if they don’t get all the change they want. Stay tuned.”

Michael Gerson chides the see-no-danger Democrats: “So, a Republican has convincingly won Ted Kennedy’s former Senate seat. After opposing health reform. And supporting the waterboarding of terrorists. And appearing as a nude centerfold. In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by three to one. And where Republicans haven’t won a Senate election since 1972. After a high-profile visit by President Obama. Who won the state by 26 points last year. But who now carries no political weight in the bluest state in the country. With vicious, public recriminations starting among Democrats even before election day. Following major losses in Virginia and New Jersey. All of which led one popular Democratic blog to argue: ‘Why Massachusetts doesn’t matter.’”

Hard to argue that: “This is the first time in years that David Gergen has helped elect a Republican.” The line “This is the people’s seat” is going to go down with “I paid for this microphone” in campaign lore.

Chris Cillizza observes: “With the Coakley loss now in the rear view mirror, the attention of the political world will now quickly turn to the question of whether or not congressional Democrats — particularly those in swing areas — will start jumping ship.” I think the only question is how many jump. “Several Democratic operatives acknowledged privately over the past few days that a Coakley defeat could put control of the House in play if enough targeted members head for the hills. It remains to be seen whether those doomsday predictions come to pass but it’s now clear that Democrats must work day in and day out to avoid broad losses outside of the historic norms for a first term, midterm election.”

Hans von Spakovsky looks for clues to White House meddling in the New Black Panther Party case: “Perhaps the single most important question that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the White House are refusing to answer in the growing scandal (for the stonewalling and subpoena violations make it a scandal) is which political appointees were involved in the obviously wrongful decision to dismiss the lawsuit — a civil suit filed under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Newly released White House visitor records present strong circumstantial evidence of White House involvement in what should have been an independent and impartial law-enforcement decision.”

Before the returns were in last night, from Stuart Rothenberg: “If Brown wins, and he may, it will be the biggest political upset of my adult life. Some have compared a possible Republican win to Democrat Harris Wofford’s 1991 Pennsylvania special election Senate victory over Republican Dick Thornburgh, who was U.S. attorney general. But to me, a Brown win would be much bigger.” Yes, it is.

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Palin’s Take

Sarah Palin via phone on Fox says this is a “tidal wave.” She calls it a message against the status quo in D.C. “A referendum on the Left’s policy agenda,” she declares. The people are opposing a government takeover of health care and an intrusion in our lives. This is a “step in taking our country back.” She says she would have endorsed Scott Brown had he asked, but he “didn’t call in a lot of outsiders.” The Tea Party movement vs. the Republican party? She says she doesn’t look at those as opposing phenomenon. The Tea Party, she explains, is a small-government movement, which is compatible with what the GOP should be.

What she wants is to scratch ObamaCare. What does she think will happen? She says the people have to be “ever vigilant” to watch out for the parliamentary tricks. And Martha Coakley? Palin shows some good-humored empathy — she knows something about blaming a candidate in a tough year.

Liberal Palin haters should watch and listen to her now and then. Her delivery has become more polished and she is now able to make her argument succinctly. No wonder the Left is freaked out that she has a platform to refine her skills and build her audience.

Sarah Palin via phone on Fox says this is a “tidal wave.” She calls it a message against the status quo in D.C. “A referendum on the Left’s policy agenda,” she declares. The people are opposing a government takeover of health care and an intrusion in our lives. This is a “step in taking our country back.” She says she would have endorsed Scott Brown had he asked, but he “didn’t call in a lot of outsiders.” The Tea Party movement vs. the Republican party? She says she doesn’t look at those as opposing phenomenon. The Tea Party, she explains, is a small-government movement, which is compatible with what the GOP should be.

What she wants is to scratch ObamaCare. What does she think will happen? She says the people have to be “ever vigilant” to watch out for the parliamentary tricks. And Martha Coakley? Palin shows some good-humored empathy — she knows something about blaming a candidate in a tough year.

Liberal Palin haters should watch and listen to her now and then. Her delivery has become more polished and she is now able to make her argument succinctly. No wonder the Left is freaked out that she has a platform to refine her skills and build her audience.

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Will They Play Games?

Martha Coakley concedes. She has graciously given Scott Brown her congratulations. It’ll be hard in these circumstances to delay seating him, no? At some point the gamesmanship just doesn’t work.

And not to rub salt in the wounds, but sometimes a concession speech is the candidate’s finest moment (e.g., Al Gore). This deadly dull, rambling speech isn’t one of those.

Martha Coakley concedes. She has graciously given Scott Brown her congratulations. It’ll be hard in these circumstances to delay seating him, no? At some point the gamesmanship just doesn’t work.

And not to rub salt in the wounds, but sometimes a concession speech is the candidate’s finest moment (e.g., Al Gore). This deadly dull, rambling speech isn’t one of those.

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Looks Like a Trend

Martha Coakley has conceded. The comfortable margin of victory is nothing less than a landslide. A remarkable result, following results in New Jersey and Virginia, which were themselves extraordinary. Coakley will be blamed, vilified, and sneered at by establishment Democrats. But make no mistake: this is a “stunner,” as Juan Williams put it. The series of drubbings in states hardly considered conservative strongholds is a signal that the country a year after electing Obama has had enough. Democrats can double-down, as Williams said, or save themselves and their party. The determination of the White House and congressional leaders to throw themselves over the political cliff may be undiminished. Obama’s Democratic troops may not, however, go willingly to their political deaths.

Martha Coakley has conceded. The comfortable margin of victory is nothing less than a landslide. A remarkable result, following results in New Jersey and Virginia, which were themselves extraordinary. Coakley will be blamed, vilified, and sneered at by establishment Democrats. But make no mistake: this is a “stunner,” as Juan Williams put it. The series of drubbings in states hardly considered conservative strongholds is a signal that the country a year after electing Obama has had enough. Democrats can double-down, as Williams said, or save themselves and their party. The determination of the White House and congressional leaders to throw themselves over the political cliff may be undiminished. Obama’s Democratic troops may not, however, go willingly to their political deaths.

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After Scott Brown, Liberals May Have Nowhere to Hide

Yes, Martha Coakley was a bad candidate. Except that she wasn’t a bad candidate when she won a huge majority running for attorney general of Massachusetts three years ago. Yes, Creigh Deeds was a bad candidate in Virginia’s governor’s race last year — except that he seemed like a very good candidate when the Washington Post championed him in the primary. And yes, Coakley’s rival Scott Brown is a good candidate, and so was Virginia’s Bob McDonnell, except both of them could easily have seemed like bad candidates under different circumstances.

One of the things that makes a candidate good is when what he says sounds sensible, calm, and reasonable by comparison to the other guy. What the (apparent) success of Scott Brown in Massachusetts, following McDonnell in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey, tells us in part is that the policy criticism at the heart of their campaigns is connecting to ordinary people, to worried voters. And this is the great threat to the Democrats going forward this year and in November.

Democrats will be forced to defend and argue on behalf of policies that disturb more people than they comfort. And that is where the great danger lies. It’s one thing to speak in generalized pieties about children and health care and the needy and education, especially when the country is being governed by a president with a very different sense of what is best for America. It’s another thing to have to stand up for very specific pieces of legislation that advance very specific policies on these matters — left-liberal policies to be precise, in a country that is only one-fifth consciously and knowingly left-liberal.

Republicans learned this to their dismay when they were called to account in 2006 for the very specific policy choices made by George Bush in Iraq that were not working, and in 2008 for the policy choices that helped lead to the financial meltdown. There’s nowhere to run from a congressional vote; there’s nowhere to hide from a policy being advocated by a president from your party; there’s nowhere to turn for understanding that you’re only trying to do what’s best for America. The 40 percent who will always vote against you are going to have company among the 20 percent that bounce between the two parties when it comes to assigning responsibility for the choices you make and the party you’re a part of.

Last week I argued that the Scott Brown surge might indicate global trouble for incumbents rather than an ideological surge on the Right. I still think that’s true, but the thing is, the incumbents who can argue that they attempted to derail the policies the general public doesn’t like won’t necessarily seem like incumbents. (Coakley wasn’t an incumbent but is being treated as though she is.) If, indeed, Scott Brown prevails tonight and the repudiation of ObamaCare and other aspects of the president’s agenda deep inside Blue State territory are what is behind that victory, the political question remaining for the balance of the year as far as Democrats are concerned can only be whether things will improve dramatically enough in the economy to neutralize an unmistakable national sentiment among voters to take back what they did in 2008.

Yes, Martha Coakley was a bad candidate. Except that she wasn’t a bad candidate when she won a huge majority running for attorney general of Massachusetts three years ago. Yes, Creigh Deeds was a bad candidate in Virginia’s governor’s race last year — except that he seemed like a very good candidate when the Washington Post championed him in the primary. And yes, Coakley’s rival Scott Brown is a good candidate, and so was Virginia’s Bob McDonnell, except both of them could easily have seemed like bad candidates under different circumstances.

One of the things that makes a candidate good is when what he says sounds sensible, calm, and reasonable by comparison to the other guy. What the (apparent) success of Scott Brown in Massachusetts, following McDonnell in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey, tells us in part is that the policy criticism at the heart of their campaigns is connecting to ordinary people, to worried voters. And this is the great threat to the Democrats going forward this year and in November.

Democrats will be forced to defend and argue on behalf of policies that disturb more people than they comfort. And that is where the great danger lies. It’s one thing to speak in generalized pieties about children and health care and the needy and education, especially when the country is being governed by a president with a very different sense of what is best for America. It’s another thing to have to stand up for very specific pieces of legislation that advance very specific policies on these matters — left-liberal policies to be precise, in a country that is only one-fifth consciously and knowingly left-liberal.

Republicans learned this to their dismay when they were called to account in 2006 for the very specific policy choices made by George Bush in Iraq that were not working, and in 2008 for the policy choices that helped lead to the financial meltdown. There’s nowhere to run from a congressional vote; there’s nowhere to hide from a policy being advocated by a president from your party; there’s nowhere to turn for understanding that you’re only trying to do what’s best for America. The 40 percent who will always vote against you are going to have company among the 20 percent that bounce between the two parties when it comes to assigning responsibility for the choices you make and the party you’re a part of.

Last week I argued that the Scott Brown surge might indicate global trouble for incumbents rather than an ideological surge on the Right. I still think that’s true, but the thing is, the incumbents who can argue that they attempted to derail the policies the general public doesn’t like won’t necessarily seem like incumbents. (Coakley wasn’t an incumbent but is being treated as though she is.) If, indeed, Scott Brown prevails tonight and the repudiation of ObamaCare and other aspects of the president’s agenda deep inside Blue State territory are what is behind that victory, the political question remaining for the balance of the year as far as Democrats are concerned can only be whether things will improve dramatically enough in the economy to neutralize an unmistakable national sentiment among voters to take back what they did in 2008.

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What’s Missing Today in Massachusetts? Exit Polls

Here’s an interesting piece of intelligence that may have an impact on the spin of today’s special Senate election in Massachusetts: no exit polls. In a post on the New York Times’s political blog The Caucus, reporters Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny lament the absence of pollsters blanketing the state in order to give political junkies data to chew on in the aftermath of the voting. According to Zeleny, “There are no exit polls, of course, because no one anticipated this special election would turn into a real race — from the television networks that pay for the exit polls to Democratic leaders in Washington who will suffer if Martha Coakley loses. So without them, we will be left to rely on anecdotal information.”

While the Timesmen play it close to the vest on the looming prospect of a monumental Republican upset of what had been considered as safe a Democratic seat as there was in the country, the lack of polling data about why the voters are abandoning the party of the Kennedys could be significant as the party in power contemplates what went wrong. Even if Martha Coakley pulls victory from the jaws of defeat, the fact that a GOP win is a distinct possibility must be seen as an ominous sign for the Democrats. As inaccurate and misleading as exit polls can be, such a survey conducted in Massachusetts today might give us more of an idea about the motivations of voters, as well as the level of defections from the Democrats and the way independents are moving toward the Republicans.

Even more to the point, the absence of polling data — even with a dramatic shift in the only poll that actually counts — might also help keep the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress in denial about the unpopularity of their radical domestic programs. Some on the Left are actually suggesting that they might seek to delay Scott Brown’s certification or swearing in while ObamaCare is hustled through the Congress before the Democrats lose their filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the Senate. So it’s clear that the notion put forward by wise men such as Fox News’s Brit Hume that a Coakley defeat will be an opportunity for them to step back from the left-wing precipice may be a piece of good advice that the Obama administration will not heed.

The absence of exit-polling data will give the spinmeisters on the cable networks less to jaw about, even though a Republican win or even a close race will provide all the information we actually need to understand the wave of dissatisfaction and frustration with the administration that is sweeping across the country. But it may leave some of the chattering classes wondering, like the old saw about a tree falling in the forest with no one to see or hear it: if an election is held without exit polls, does it really count?

Here’s an interesting piece of intelligence that may have an impact on the spin of today’s special Senate election in Massachusetts: no exit polls. In a post on the New York Times’s political blog The Caucus, reporters Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny lament the absence of pollsters blanketing the state in order to give political junkies data to chew on in the aftermath of the voting. According to Zeleny, “There are no exit polls, of course, because no one anticipated this special election would turn into a real race — from the television networks that pay for the exit polls to Democratic leaders in Washington who will suffer if Martha Coakley loses. So without them, we will be left to rely on anecdotal information.”

While the Timesmen play it close to the vest on the looming prospect of a monumental Republican upset of what had been considered as safe a Democratic seat as there was in the country, the lack of polling data about why the voters are abandoning the party of the Kennedys could be significant as the party in power contemplates what went wrong. Even if Martha Coakley pulls victory from the jaws of defeat, the fact that a GOP win is a distinct possibility must be seen as an ominous sign for the Democrats. As inaccurate and misleading as exit polls can be, such a survey conducted in Massachusetts today might give us more of an idea about the motivations of voters, as well as the level of defections from the Democrats and the way independents are moving toward the Republicans.

Even more to the point, the absence of polling data — even with a dramatic shift in the only poll that actually counts — might also help keep the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress in denial about the unpopularity of their radical domestic programs. Some on the Left are actually suggesting that they might seek to delay Scott Brown’s certification or swearing in while ObamaCare is hustled through the Congress before the Democrats lose their filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the Senate. So it’s clear that the notion put forward by wise men such as Fox News’s Brit Hume that a Coakley defeat will be an opportunity for them to step back from the left-wing precipice may be a piece of good advice that the Obama administration will not heed.

The absence of exit-polling data will give the spinmeisters on the cable networks less to jaw about, even though a Republican win or even a close race will provide all the information we actually need to understand the wave of dissatisfaction and frustration with the administration that is sweeping across the country. But it may leave some of the chattering classes wondering, like the old saw about a tree falling in the forest with no one to see or hear it: if an election is held without exit polls, does it really count?

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Martha, Meet Creigh Deeds

The venom directed at a failing candidate by her own party is often directly related to the margin of the anticipated defeat. If true, then Martha Coakley is going to get thumped, according to Byron York’s report:

“Everybody is scrambling and freaking out,” says one Democratic strategist of the mood among Democrats now. Coakley’s run has taught the once-triumphant party that “a lackluster, uninspiring campaign is not going to get it done, even in the bluest states.” But with feelings running deep, some Democrats are blaming Coakley in a much more personal way.

“She’s kind of aloof,” the Democrat says. “There are people who will vote for her who don’t really have a sense that they like or trust her. The Kennedys aren’t really fond of her. She basically announced her campaign the day Ted died, and didn’t give Vicki the opportunity to think about [running to replace her husband]. From the Kennedy side of the ledger, there’s no great love for Coakley. They look at her as kind of a predatory politician.”

Well, she did win a primary, after all — by nearly 20 points, in a multi-candidate race. Just a little over a month ago, the entire Democratic establishment was backing her, and the mainstream media declared her the decided favorite in the general race. Now she’s flawed, personally defective, and unloved by everyone. I’m sure Creigh Deeds can relate. He too was beloved, yet wound up the goat as Democrats realized he was headed for a big loss. He too ran a mediocre race. But neither Deeds nor Coakley would have been caught fending off incoming artillery from the Democratic spin machine had the national political environment — namely, the Obama agenda and the public’s disdain for the Reid-Pelosi-Obama leftward lurch — not turned off voters.

Don’t get me wrong — Coakley has made her share of flubs. But in any other year, a Democrat who had committed just as many flubs would still win. That looks highly unlikely now.

The venom directed at a failing candidate by her own party is often directly related to the margin of the anticipated defeat. If true, then Martha Coakley is going to get thumped, according to Byron York’s report:

“Everybody is scrambling and freaking out,” says one Democratic strategist of the mood among Democrats now. Coakley’s run has taught the once-triumphant party that “a lackluster, uninspiring campaign is not going to get it done, even in the bluest states.” But with feelings running deep, some Democrats are blaming Coakley in a much more personal way.

“She’s kind of aloof,” the Democrat says. “There are people who will vote for her who don’t really have a sense that they like or trust her. The Kennedys aren’t really fond of her. She basically announced her campaign the day Ted died, and didn’t give Vicki the opportunity to think about [running to replace her husband]. From the Kennedy side of the ledger, there’s no great love for Coakley. They look at her as kind of a predatory politician.”

Well, she did win a primary, after all — by nearly 20 points, in a multi-candidate race. Just a little over a month ago, the entire Democratic establishment was backing her, and the mainstream media declared her the decided favorite in the general race. Now she’s flawed, personally defective, and unloved by everyone. I’m sure Creigh Deeds can relate. He too was beloved, yet wound up the goat as Democrats realized he was headed for a big loss. He too ran a mediocre race. But neither Deeds nor Coakley would have been caught fending off incoming artillery from the Democratic spin machine had the national political environment — namely, the Obama agenda and the public’s disdain for the Reid-Pelosi-Obama leftward lurch — not turned off voters.

Don’t get me wrong — Coakley has made her share of flubs. But in any other year, a Democrat who had committed just as many flubs would still win. That looks highly unlikely now.

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The Beginning of the End of Obamaism?

ABC’s Rick Klein reports that the Democrats are “game-planning a few different scenarios” if Scott Brown wins. Maybe they’ll stall on seating him. Or perhaps they’ll try to cram the Senate bill down House Democrats’ throats. It doesn’t appear that “Start over” of “Stop committing political suicide” is one of the scenarios. Maybe, however, by Wednesday, reality will sink in if Martha Coakley, the Democrats, and ObamaCare get a thumbs-down from Massachusetts voters. (What do you suppose is going through the minds of Blue Dogs and Red State senators who have many, many more Republicans back home than Coakley does?)

Meanwhile, Republicans are practically daring them to ignore the voters:

“I’d love for the Democrats to try to not seat him, and I’d like to see them rush through health care,” [Massachusetts Republican National Committeeman Ron] Kaufman told us from Boston, where he’s helping Brown’s campaign in its final stages. “If either of those things happens, we’ll have a revolution in the streets — not just here but in Washington. I think they’re smarter than that. … If you read the language of a special bill that they rammed through to get him appointed in the first place, it says that [Kirk’s] term is over tomorrow night,” Kaufman told us.

”I am convinced that if Scott Brown wins this race in a comfortable margin — in a fair margin — then the Democrats are not suicidal enough to try to prevent him from being the duly elected senator,” he said.

Perhaps. We know that Obama, Pelosi, and Reid have been willing to sacrifice many in their ranks for the sake of the decades-old liberal dream of government-run health care. I don’t think that’s going to change. But what will, I suspect, is the willingness of their House and Senate colleagues to listen to political hokum (“The voters will learn to love it!”) and unsubstantiated spin (“Doing nothing is worse than passing a bill 60 percent of voters oppose”). At some point, those members at greater risk than Coakley — which, come to think of it, is virtually all of them — will say “Enough!” And then we might see the end of Obamaism — not necessarily the end of the president himself but of his experiment in ultra-liberalism in defiance of the majority of the electorate.

ABC’s Rick Klein reports that the Democrats are “game-planning a few different scenarios” if Scott Brown wins. Maybe they’ll stall on seating him. Or perhaps they’ll try to cram the Senate bill down House Democrats’ throats. It doesn’t appear that “Start over” of “Stop committing political suicide” is one of the scenarios. Maybe, however, by Wednesday, reality will sink in if Martha Coakley, the Democrats, and ObamaCare get a thumbs-down from Massachusetts voters. (What do you suppose is going through the minds of Blue Dogs and Red State senators who have many, many more Republicans back home than Coakley does?)

Meanwhile, Republicans are practically daring them to ignore the voters:

“I’d love for the Democrats to try to not seat him, and I’d like to see them rush through health care,” [Massachusetts Republican National Committeeman Ron] Kaufman told us from Boston, where he’s helping Brown’s campaign in its final stages. “If either of those things happens, we’ll have a revolution in the streets — not just here but in Washington. I think they’re smarter than that. … If you read the language of a special bill that they rammed through to get him appointed in the first place, it says that [Kirk’s] term is over tomorrow night,” Kaufman told us.

”I am convinced that if Scott Brown wins this race in a comfortable margin — in a fair margin — then the Democrats are not suicidal enough to try to prevent him from being the duly elected senator,” he said.

Perhaps. We know that Obama, Pelosi, and Reid have been willing to sacrifice many in their ranks for the sake of the decades-old liberal dream of government-run health care. I don’t think that’s going to change. But what will, I suspect, is the willingness of their House and Senate colleagues to listen to political hokum (“The voters will learn to love it!”) and unsubstantiated spin (“Doing nothing is worse than passing a bill 60 percent of voters oppose”). At some point, those members at greater risk than Coakley — which, come to think of it, is virtually all of them — will say “Enough!” And then we might see the end of Obamaism — not necessarily the end of the president himself but of his experiment in ultra-liberalism in defiance of the majority of the electorate.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

University of Pennsylvania’s Hillel is hosting J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami. Does Hillel not know that J Street doesn’t like to be known as a “pro-Israel” organization? One wonders what those who support Hillel must be thinking.

Mitt Romney was either missing in action or responsible for Scott Brown’s success, depending on which narrative you like. If Scott Brown wins, lots of people will claim credit, but Scott Brown will be forever indebted to ObamaCare. Without that target, is there any doubt that a plain-wrap Democrat, even one as mediocre as Coakley, was going to win going away?

Martha Coakley in “free fall”? Down by 9 in one poll. And it’s a similar story in many other polls — making for one eye-opening graph.

Nate Silver also is picking Scott Brown to win.

Marty Peretz sums up: “A loss in Massachusetts for the Obami would be a disastrous event. A narrow win would be a terrible warning.”

Ruth Marcus thinks it’s a plane crash: “If the Democratic party were a plane, its captain would have gotten on the intercom and instructed passengers to brace for impact. But President Obama, in this instance, may be no Sully Sullenberger. The chances of pulling off a smooth landing seem slight. The consequences could be catastrophic. … [A] Coakley loss would not simply reflect her shortcomings; it would illustrate the desire, in Democratic Massachusetts and nationwide, to put some checks on Democratic control of the levers of government. The first victim could be the central legislative focus of Obama’s presidency.”

The Wall Street Journal editors think it’s “the classic political mistake of ideological overreach”: “Mr. Obama won the White House in part on his personal style and cool confidence amid a recession and an unpopular war. Yet liberals in Congress interpreted their victory as a mandate to repeal more or less the entire post-1980 policy era and to fulfill, at last, their dream of turning the U.S. into a cradle-to-grave entitlement state. … The lesson of Mr. Obama’s lost first year is that an economic crisis is a terrible thing to exploit. As they have each time in the last 40 years that they have had total control of Washington, Democrats are proving again that America can’t be successfully governed from the left. If that is the lesson Mr. Obama learns from Massachusetts, he might still salvage his Presidency.”

Nancy Pelosi’s not listening to a bunch of know-nothing voters. Full steam ahead! And they wonder why they’re on the verge of a political earthquake.

This suggests that a large plurality of voters want to stop ObamaCare dead in its tracks: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 49% of likely voters nationwide want Brown to win, while 34% are cheering on Coakley. Seventeen percent (17%) are undecided.”

University of Pennsylvania’s Hillel is hosting J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami. Does Hillel not know that J Street doesn’t like to be known as a “pro-Israel” organization? One wonders what those who support Hillel must be thinking.

Mitt Romney was either missing in action or responsible for Scott Brown’s success, depending on which narrative you like. If Scott Brown wins, lots of people will claim credit, but Scott Brown will be forever indebted to ObamaCare. Without that target, is there any doubt that a plain-wrap Democrat, even one as mediocre as Coakley, was going to win going away?

Martha Coakley in “free fall”? Down by 9 in one poll. And it’s a similar story in many other polls — making for one eye-opening graph.

Nate Silver also is picking Scott Brown to win.

Marty Peretz sums up: “A loss in Massachusetts for the Obami would be a disastrous event. A narrow win would be a terrible warning.”

Ruth Marcus thinks it’s a plane crash: “If the Democratic party were a plane, its captain would have gotten on the intercom and instructed passengers to brace for impact. But President Obama, in this instance, may be no Sully Sullenberger. The chances of pulling off a smooth landing seem slight. The consequences could be catastrophic. … [A] Coakley loss would not simply reflect her shortcomings; it would illustrate the desire, in Democratic Massachusetts and nationwide, to put some checks on Democratic control of the levers of government. The first victim could be the central legislative focus of Obama’s presidency.”

The Wall Street Journal editors think it’s “the classic political mistake of ideological overreach”: “Mr. Obama won the White House in part on his personal style and cool confidence amid a recession and an unpopular war. Yet liberals in Congress interpreted their victory as a mandate to repeal more or less the entire post-1980 policy era and to fulfill, at last, their dream of turning the U.S. into a cradle-to-grave entitlement state. … The lesson of Mr. Obama’s lost first year is that an economic crisis is a terrible thing to exploit. As they have each time in the last 40 years that they have had total control of Washington, Democrats are proving again that America can’t be successfully governed from the left. If that is the lesson Mr. Obama learns from Massachusetts, he might still salvage his Presidency.”

Nancy Pelosi’s not listening to a bunch of know-nothing voters. Full steam ahead! And they wonder why they’re on the verge of a political earthquake.

This suggests that a large plurality of voters want to stop ObamaCare dead in its tracks: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 49% of likely voters nationwide want Brown to win, while 34% are cheering on Coakley. Seventeen percent (17%) are undecided.”

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A Perfect Political Storm

A month ago even most political junkies – at least outside Massachusetts – would have been hard-pressed to name the Democratic and Republican candidates in tomorrow’s special election for U.S. Senate. In that Bluest of Blue states, which hasn’t had a Republican senator in 32 years and has no Republican House members, it was a foregone conclusion that Martha Coakley was going to win in a walk. She was 30 points ahead. Ho hum.

But Coakley obviously believed she was a shoe-in and at first ran a lackluster, minimal, take-no-risks campaign. She even took a week off to celebrate the holidays. And when she was campaigning, she made gaffe after gaffe. She said that Curt Schilling is a Yankees fan; dissed Fenway Park; said Catholics (48.2 percent of the electorate in Massachusetts) shouldn’t work in emergency rooms because, in effect, Church teachings on abortion conflict with the liberal gospel; and said that “we need to get taxes up.” Her opponent, Scott Brown, has run a smart, effective campaign and seems to have pitch-perfect political instincts. His “it’s the people’s seat” was the best sound bite to come out of a debate in years.

Suddenly what had been a sure thing became competitive, and the national parties and political activists across the country awoke to what was at stake. Scott Brown’s election would end the Democrat’s filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. More, the election quickly became perceived as a referendum on the increasingly unpopular ObamaCare and on President Obama, himself. It became clear that a Brown win would be interpreted as a rebuke to the President and almost certainly mean the end of ObamaCare in anything like its present form. It would make Democrats in Congress, especially those in competitive seats, far more reluctant to vote in ways that might be unpopular. It would induce some Democrats facing uphill campaigns next November to retire.

Republicans, watching Brown climb the polls, sensed a historic opportunity. Democrats, watching Coakley drop in the polls, sensed a disaster in the making. Resources, money, and people from around the country have poured into Massachusetts in the last two weeks. The news networks sent their heavy hitters to cover the election. Pundits covered the story like a rug. And Brown kept climbing. Coakley kept making mistakes like flying to Washington to collect money from lobbyists at a private cocktail party and saying she didn’t know anything about a member of her entourage roughing up a reporter, even though photographs showed her standing right there, watching it happen from five feet away.

Finally President Obama, who had had no plans to campaign personally, decided to put his own prestige on the line to salvage the situation. It was a big risk, as a loss for Coakley would now inescapably be seen as a rebuke to him.  But he was in a damned-if-he-did-damned-if-he-didn’t situation. He and Coakley had a rally at Northeastern University. The hall wasn’t filled. Brown (and Curt Schilling) had a rally in Worchester. It was jammed. Hand-painted yard signs have sprung up all over the state for Brown, and the momentum seems to be all with him. Once down 30 points, he is now up from 4 to 11 points, although polling in this sort of election is very unreliable. Intrade, a prediction market that taps into the “wisdom of crowds,” had Coakley up 55-45 a few days ago but now has Brown up 64-37.

Six weeks ago, nobody cared. Now the entire political nation is awaiting the outcome of what might well be regarded as the most important and consequential by-election in American history.

A month ago even most political junkies – at least outside Massachusetts – would have been hard-pressed to name the Democratic and Republican candidates in tomorrow’s special election for U.S. Senate. In that Bluest of Blue states, which hasn’t had a Republican senator in 32 years and has no Republican House members, it was a foregone conclusion that Martha Coakley was going to win in a walk. She was 30 points ahead. Ho hum.

But Coakley obviously believed she was a shoe-in and at first ran a lackluster, minimal, take-no-risks campaign. She even took a week off to celebrate the holidays. And when she was campaigning, she made gaffe after gaffe. She said that Curt Schilling is a Yankees fan; dissed Fenway Park; said Catholics (48.2 percent of the electorate in Massachusetts) shouldn’t work in emergency rooms because, in effect, Church teachings on abortion conflict with the liberal gospel; and said that “we need to get taxes up.” Her opponent, Scott Brown, has run a smart, effective campaign and seems to have pitch-perfect political instincts. His “it’s the people’s seat” was the best sound bite to come out of a debate in years.

Suddenly what had been a sure thing became competitive, and the national parties and political activists across the country awoke to what was at stake. Scott Brown’s election would end the Democrat’s filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. More, the election quickly became perceived as a referendum on the increasingly unpopular ObamaCare and on President Obama, himself. It became clear that a Brown win would be interpreted as a rebuke to the President and almost certainly mean the end of ObamaCare in anything like its present form. It would make Democrats in Congress, especially those in competitive seats, far more reluctant to vote in ways that might be unpopular. It would induce some Democrats facing uphill campaigns next November to retire.

Republicans, watching Brown climb the polls, sensed a historic opportunity. Democrats, watching Coakley drop in the polls, sensed a disaster in the making. Resources, money, and people from around the country have poured into Massachusetts in the last two weeks. The news networks sent their heavy hitters to cover the election. Pundits covered the story like a rug. And Brown kept climbing. Coakley kept making mistakes like flying to Washington to collect money from lobbyists at a private cocktail party and saying she didn’t know anything about a member of her entourage roughing up a reporter, even though photographs showed her standing right there, watching it happen from five feet away.

Finally President Obama, who had had no plans to campaign personally, decided to put his own prestige on the line to salvage the situation. It was a big risk, as a loss for Coakley would now inescapably be seen as a rebuke to him.  But he was in a damned-if-he-did-damned-if-he-didn’t situation. He and Coakley had a rally at Northeastern University. The hall wasn’t filled. Brown (and Curt Schilling) had a rally in Worchester. It was jammed. Hand-painted yard signs have sprung up all over the state for Brown, and the momentum seems to be all with him. Once down 30 points, he is now up from 4 to 11 points, although polling in this sort of election is very unreliable. Intrade, a prediction market that taps into the “wisdom of crowds,” had Coakley up 55-45 a few days ago but now has Brown up 64-37.

Six weeks ago, nobody cared. Now the entire political nation is awaiting the outcome of what might well be regarded as the most important and consequential by-election in American history.

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ObamaCare and Scott Brown

Right now, we hear talk that Democrats are coming up with plans to push through health care even if Scott Brown wins the Senate race in Massachusetts tomorrow. According to the New York Times, “Plan B would be to try to persuade House Democrats to approve the health care bill that the Senate adopted on Christmas Eve, obviating the need for an additional Senate vote and sending the measure directly to President Obama for his signature.” Or they will try passing the bill before Brown is seated, it is said, or they will try passing health care through the budget reconciliation process, which requires only 51 Senate votes.

Democrats, I think, are deluding themselves.

All this talk fails to account for the magnitude of a Democratic loss in Massachusetts. That would, by itself, set off a terrifically powerful political chain reaction. The notion that Democrats would simply need a new tactic, as if the only thing to have changed were a single seat in the U.S. Senate, is silly.

Why? Because we will wake up to an entirely different political world on Wednesday if Scott Brown defeats Martha Coakley tomorrow. It is hard to overstate the panic (and recriminations) that will ensue among Democrats. It will be massive. The entire political and legislative dynamic will change. And the warning many of us have long been sending to Democrats will finally have broken through: passing ObamaCare is worse than passing nothing at all.

If the current polls hold up, and Scott Brown wins — which is likely at this point — ObamaCare may well die as a result of the massive wound inflicted by voters in the Bay State. Now wouldn’t that be an irony?

Right now, we hear talk that Democrats are coming up with plans to push through health care even if Scott Brown wins the Senate race in Massachusetts tomorrow. According to the New York Times, “Plan B would be to try to persuade House Democrats to approve the health care bill that the Senate adopted on Christmas Eve, obviating the need for an additional Senate vote and sending the measure directly to President Obama for his signature.” Or they will try passing the bill before Brown is seated, it is said, or they will try passing health care through the budget reconciliation process, which requires only 51 Senate votes.

Democrats, I think, are deluding themselves.

All this talk fails to account for the magnitude of a Democratic loss in Massachusetts. That would, by itself, set off a terrifically powerful political chain reaction. The notion that Democrats would simply need a new tactic, as if the only thing to have changed were a single seat in the U.S. Senate, is silly.

Why? Because we will wake up to an entirely different political world on Wednesday if Scott Brown defeats Martha Coakley tomorrow. It is hard to overstate the panic (and recriminations) that will ensue among Democrats. It will be massive. The entire political and legislative dynamic will change. And the warning many of us have long been sending to Democrats will finally have broken through: passing ObamaCare is worse than passing nothing at all.

If the current polls hold up, and Scott Brown wins — which is likely at this point — ObamaCare may well die as a result of the massive wound inflicted by voters in the Bay State. Now wouldn’t that be an irony?

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Missing the Campaign

Charles Hurt, writing of Obama’s lackluster and belated appearance in Massachusetts on behalf of the listing campaign of Martha Coakley, observes:

Obama told the crowd here yesterday that he needed Coakley in Washington because she is “independent.” Really? Does anybody actually think that the reason Obama wants her in the Senate is that she would even dream of casting the deciding vote to kill the Democratic health-care bill? Absolutely not. The only reason Obama came here is because he needs somebody bought and paid for. By him.

This concisely sums up the problem that threatens to engulf Obama and whatever is left of the remnants of his campaign organization. He is a candidate deprived of a campaign. He is a community organizer with no one to organize against those who hold the levers of power. He holds the levers of power but without the executive acumen to bring the country along and to craft a successful, broad-based agenda. If not out of his depth, he is out of his milieu.

The familiar campaign environment deprives Obama of three elements that were essential to his meteoric rise. First, he lacks a constant and inept opponent. Goodness knows he’s tried to re-create a string of new enemies – Fox News, Gallup, the Chamber of Commerce — but their multiplicity and the absurdity of characterizing all bad news as illegitimate and venal have undermined his gambit. Second, he must leave aside the puffy generalizations and that blank slate onto which diverse and contradictory forces projected their hopes and dreams. Again, he has tried to re-create and preserve ambiguity (e.g., refusing to draft his own health-care proposals), but governing alas is still choosing, and his choices have offended more than half the country, according to a good number of polls.

And finally, Obama’s favorite tactic — blaming George W. Bush and his administration for just about everything – is now faltering. While tangling with Dick Cheney never was all that successful, the fixation with the Bush team has become an obnoxious political tic and serves only to undercut his claim to be the Truman-esque buck-stops-here president. Noemie Emery aptly describes:

The Blaming Bush mantra is starting to fade in effectiveness. It was one thing early on when it was the real Bush being weighed against the ideal Obama, who had never been tried, and so never failed at anything, and who one could dream would do everything perfectly. The real Bush against the real Obama is a whole other story, as the problems that stymied the 43rd president show no signs of yielding to the 44th’s charms. The terrorists hate us, and still want to kill us. Unemployment is high, stimuli notwithstanding. Closing Guantánamo Bay isn’t that easy. Iran and North Korea haven’t unclenched their fists.

It is not hard to figure out why Obama has recycled campaign tactics, even when they have lost their utility and are ill-suited to the presidency. They are comfortable and no doubt recall better days, when Obama was the master of the political battlefield, when the media swooned, and when he could do no wrong. Unfortunately, he must now govern, and his repertoire of skills and his favorite rhetoric are of little use — no matter how often he goes to the well of campaign tricks.

Charles Hurt, writing of Obama’s lackluster and belated appearance in Massachusetts on behalf of the listing campaign of Martha Coakley, observes:

Obama told the crowd here yesterday that he needed Coakley in Washington because she is “independent.” Really? Does anybody actually think that the reason Obama wants her in the Senate is that she would even dream of casting the deciding vote to kill the Democratic health-care bill? Absolutely not. The only reason Obama came here is because he needs somebody bought and paid for. By him.

This concisely sums up the problem that threatens to engulf Obama and whatever is left of the remnants of his campaign organization. He is a candidate deprived of a campaign. He is a community organizer with no one to organize against those who hold the levers of power. He holds the levers of power but without the executive acumen to bring the country along and to craft a successful, broad-based agenda. If not out of his depth, he is out of his milieu.

The familiar campaign environment deprives Obama of three elements that were essential to his meteoric rise. First, he lacks a constant and inept opponent. Goodness knows he’s tried to re-create a string of new enemies – Fox News, Gallup, the Chamber of Commerce — but their multiplicity and the absurdity of characterizing all bad news as illegitimate and venal have undermined his gambit. Second, he must leave aside the puffy generalizations and that blank slate onto which diverse and contradictory forces projected their hopes and dreams. Again, he has tried to re-create and preserve ambiguity (e.g., refusing to draft his own health-care proposals), but governing alas is still choosing, and his choices have offended more than half the country, according to a good number of polls.

And finally, Obama’s favorite tactic — blaming George W. Bush and his administration for just about everything – is now faltering. While tangling with Dick Cheney never was all that successful, the fixation with the Bush team has become an obnoxious political tic and serves only to undercut his claim to be the Truman-esque buck-stops-here president. Noemie Emery aptly describes:

The Blaming Bush mantra is starting to fade in effectiveness. It was one thing early on when it was the real Bush being weighed against the ideal Obama, who had never been tried, and so never failed at anything, and who one could dream would do everything perfectly. The real Bush against the real Obama is a whole other story, as the problems that stymied the 43rd president show no signs of yielding to the 44th’s charms. The terrorists hate us, and still want to kill us. Unemployment is high, stimuli notwithstanding. Closing Guantánamo Bay isn’t that easy. Iran and North Korea haven’t unclenched their fists.

It is not hard to figure out why Obama has recycled campaign tactics, even when they have lost their utility and are ill-suited to the presidency. They are comfortable and no doubt recall better days, when Obama was the master of the political battlefield, when the media swooned, and when he could do no wrong. Unfortunately, he must now govern, and his repertoire of skills and his favorite rhetoric are of little use — no matter how often he goes to the well of campaign tricks.

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The Once-Appealing Barack Obama

Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of Barack Obama’s inauguration. It has been, by almost any measure, a difficult and disappointing year for him and his party.

Mr. Obama now has the highest disapproval rating in Gallup’s history for a president entering his second year in office. According to a new Washington Post–ABC News poll, among independents, only 49 percent approve — the lowest of any of his recent predecessors at this point in their presidencies. (Obama has lost a stunning 18 points among independents in just a year’s time.) In November, Democrats suffered crushing defeats in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial campaigns — and if Republican Scott Brown prevails in his race against Martha Coakley in tomorrow’s Senate election in Massachusetts, it will rank among the most important non-presidential elections in our lifetime.

It has been a staggering collapse by a president who entered office with enormous support and an unprecedented amount of goodwill. Read More

Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of Barack Obama’s inauguration. It has been, by almost any measure, a difficult and disappointing year for him and his party.

Mr. Obama now has the highest disapproval rating in Gallup’s history for a president entering his second year in office. According to a new Washington Post–ABC News poll, among independents, only 49 percent approve — the lowest of any of his recent predecessors at this point in their presidencies. (Obama has lost a stunning 18 points among independents in just a year’s time.) In November, Democrats suffered crushing defeats in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial campaigns — and if Republican Scott Brown prevails in his race against Martha Coakley in tomorrow’s Senate election in Massachusetts, it will rank among the most important non-presidential elections in our lifetime.

It has been a staggering collapse by a president who entered office with enormous support and an unprecedented amount of goodwill.

The reasons for this slide include unemployment rates that are much higher than the Obama administration predicted, job growth that never materialized despite the president’s promises, a record-setting spending binge, a massive and hugely unpopular health-care proposal, and an agenda that is far too liberal for most Americans.

But there is another, and I think quite important, explanation that was reinforced to me while reading John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s book, Game Change, which is a fascinating (and very well-written) account of the 2008 presidential campaign.

One is reminded once again of how the core of Obama’s popularity was an appeal not to policy or to a governing agenda; instead it was an appeal to thematics and narrative. “Obama cast himself as a figure uncorrupted and unco-opted by evil Washington,” the authors write. He was the candidate who “promised to be a unifier and not a polarizer; someone nondogmatic and uncontaminated by the special-interest cesspool that Washington had become.” Obama’s appeal was romantic and aesthetic, built on the rhetoric of hope and change, on his “freshness and sense of promise.” A cult of personality built up around Obama — not because of what he had achieved but because of what he seemed to embody. (“Maybe one day he’ll do something to merit all this attention,” Michelle Obama dryly told a reporter.)

“We have something very special here,” Obama’s top political aide Axelrod is quoted as saying. “I feel like I’ve been handed a porcelain baby.” Axelrod tells Obama — dubbed by his aides as the “Black Jesus” — that voters were looking for “a president who can bring the country together, who can reach beyond partisanship, and who’ll be tough on special interests.”

That was what we were promised. What we got instead is a president who increased the divisions in our nation, the most partisan and polarizing figure in the history of polling, one who is dogmatic and has been as generous to special interests as any we have seen. The efforts to buy votes in pursuit of the Obama agenda has added sewage to the cesspool.

This would hurt any president under any circumstances; for Barack Obama, whose allure was based almost entirely on his ability to convince the public that he embodied a “new politics,” it has been doubly damaging. It was Hillary Clinton of all people who understood Obama best when she said during the campaign, “We have to make people understand that he’s not real.”

Not real indeed. Obama’s stirring call for Americans to reject the “politics of cynicism” was itself deeply cynical. Perhaps none of this should come as a surprise. After all, Heilemann and Halperin write, Axelrod was “a master of the dark arts of negative campaigning.” The first major profile of him, more than 20 years ago, was titled, “Hatchet Man: The Rise of David Axelrod.”

Obama and Axelrod might have been able to get away with this if Obama’s presidency had been viewed as successful and skilled. But it’s not. And when combined with the growing realization that Obama is not up to the task of governing, that he is pursuing policies that exacerbate our problems and takes us down a wrong and even perilous path, it is poison. The toxicity is such that what was once unthinkable now seems more likely than not: Democrats losing the Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy for almost half a century. And even if they don’t, 2010 is shaping up to be a perfectly awful year for Democrats. It’s a safe bet that in response they and their allies will lash out in rage, angry at the perceived injustice of it all, furious at the fate that has befallen them. They will blame Obama’s predecessor, Republicans in Congress, the conservative movement, angry white males, Fox News, Sarah Palin’s tweets, and the wrong alignment of the stars. It won’t work.

Having created a myth, they must now live with its unmasking.

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What if There Is a Massachusetts Miracle?

If Scott Brown wins in Massachusetts after a last gasp appearance from the president (albeit an anemic one), the spin war will be on. Just as they did after the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial losses, Democrats will rationalize the loss — a weak candidate, a lousy campaign, and a “challenging political environment.” (The challenge is overcoming the rising unpopularity of their agenda, but that’s left unsaid by those defending their run of losses.) Bob McDonnell, who was sworn in this Saturday, ran against the Obama agenda and won in a landslide. Scott Brown ran as the 41st vote against ObamaCare. At some point, all but the most deluded Obama spinners must acknowledge that the public is registering its opposition to Obama’s leftward lurch in general and his brand of health-care “reform” in particular.

Obama  rolled the dice by going to Massachusetts. But had he not gone, the headline will be the same in the event Martha Coakley loses: “Massachusetts Decks Obama.” Obama’s rhetoric may no longer carry the day. But of more concern to the White House may be that his agenda is becoming politically toxic. Those who embrace and defend it do so at their political peril. And if Coakley is defeated, far fewer Democrats will be inclined to defend it.

In one sense, this might be a blessing for Obama and the Democrats. Better to get the wake-up call in January and lose one seat than to get the message only in November and lose one or both houses of Congress. If Brown pulls off the greatest political upset since, well, since Obama took down the Clintons, then Obama and the Democrats will have a choice. They might continue to bury their heads in the sand, tag all critics as illegitimate partisan stooges, and push ahead with ObamaCare (with whatever parliamentary trick they can dream up). Alternatively, they can decide not to commit political suicide. They might stop and listen to the voters rather than insulting them. They might finally rethink the premise that they can jam through a highly unpopular, earthshaking piece of legislation on a straight party vote. And then there finally might be the opportunity to come up with a focused bill that addresses discrete issues with broad-based support (e.g., tort reform, interstate insurance purchases), rather than a giant tax-and-spend scheme and a recipe for rationing care to the oldest and sickest Americans. In doing so, Obama might regain his political footing and preserve many of his congressional allies’ seats.

The choice seems like a no-brainer for Democrats. But given the hubris and ideological fervor of this crowd, I wouldn’t bank on their reversing course to spare themselves a political wipeout.

If Scott Brown wins in Massachusetts after a last gasp appearance from the president (albeit an anemic one), the spin war will be on. Just as they did after the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial losses, Democrats will rationalize the loss — a weak candidate, a lousy campaign, and a “challenging political environment.” (The challenge is overcoming the rising unpopularity of their agenda, but that’s left unsaid by those defending their run of losses.) Bob McDonnell, who was sworn in this Saturday, ran against the Obama agenda and won in a landslide. Scott Brown ran as the 41st vote against ObamaCare. At some point, all but the most deluded Obama spinners must acknowledge that the public is registering its opposition to Obama’s leftward lurch in general and his brand of health-care “reform” in particular.

Obama  rolled the dice by going to Massachusetts. But had he not gone, the headline will be the same in the event Martha Coakley loses: “Massachusetts Decks Obama.” Obama’s rhetoric may no longer carry the day. But of more concern to the White House may be that his agenda is becoming politically toxic. Those who embrace and defend it do so at their political peril. And if Coakley is defeated, far fewer Democrats will be inclined to defend it.

In one sense, this might be a blessing for Obama and the Democrats. Better to get the wake-up call in January and lose one seat than to get the message only in November and lose one or both houses of Congress. If Brown pulls off the greatest political upset since, well, since Obama took down the Clintons, then Obama and the Democrats will have a choice. They might continue to bury their heads in the sand, tag all critics as illegitimate partisan stooges, and push ahead with ObamaCare (with whatever parliamentary trick they can dream up). Alternatively, they can decide not to commit political suicide. They might stop and listen to the voters rather than insulting them. They might finally rethink the premise that they can jam through a highly unpopular, earthshaking piece of legislation on a straight party vote. And then there finally might be the opportunity to come up with a focused bill that addresses discrete issues with broad-based support (e.g., tort reform, interstate insurance purchases), rather than a giant tax-and-spend scheme and a recipe for rationing care to the oldest and sickest Americans. In doing so, Obama might regain his political footing and preserve many of his congressional allies’ seats.

The choice seems like a no-brainer for Democrats. But given the hubris and ideological fervor of this crowd, I wouldn’t bank on their reversing course to spare themselves a political wipeout.

Read Less




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