Mass. Defection Leaves Dems to Regroup

Bay State backlash in Senate race could derail more than just health bill

By Caitlin Millat and Daniel Macht
|  Wednesday, Jan 20, 2010  |  Updated 8:39 AM EDT
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Ted Kennedy's Life in Photos

AP

Republican Scott Brown has altered the political universe by winning the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat, pundits say.

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Democrats went on the defensive after an epic upset victory by the GOP in the race to fill the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts Senate seat.

Pundits and pols are divided on what Republican Scott Brown's sweeping Senate take-down in the bluest of blue states will mean for the political stage -- some say it gives liberals a chance to reposition the Democratic Party, while others contend it could signal the decline of a lot more than just the health bill.

The consensus? After Martha Coakley, the Democrats' hand-picked successor to Kennnedy, lost, Obama and his party have got a lot of work to do.

  • Time to slow down on health care reform, several rank and file Democratic lawmakers tell Politico. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) called the Bay State election a “referendum” on health care. “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,” he said.
     
  • Brown's victory has signed, sealed and delivered the grim fate of health care legislation, Timothy Noah blogs for Slate. Democrats are out of last-ditch efforts, second chances, and Hail Marys when it comes to health care, Noah writes: "If there's a workable Plan B, I don't know what it is."
     
  • Not so fast, argues Paul Waldman for The American Prospect. Democrats can still push reform through if they "show some spine" and sign the bill before Brown is sworn in because the GOPer's win doesn't mathematically mean much, Waldman writes. 
     
  • The election may have been a blow to left-wingers, but it shouldn't mean the death of any significant liberal legislation or majority rule, Jonathan Alter blogs for Newsweek. The party as a whole isn't at fault for the loss and can lay blame for the defeat squarely on Coakley, according to Alter: "Coakley is like the "Waterworld" of American politics, an indelible symbol of failure," he writes.
     
  • Indeed, a Republican takeover remains unlikely thanks to the GOP's "disorganized" national party structure, Brian Montopoli writes for CBS News' Political Hotsheet. But the stunning liberal loss shows Democrats have no idea how to handle both aggressive Tea Party conservatives and swing independent voters, and Dems will likely lose more seats in Congress, he predicts.
     
  • Brown's electoral shocker gives Democrats -- and, in particular, Obama -- the opportunity to govern from a more bipartisan perspective, Kathleen Parker writes for The Washington Post. Obama's popularity could return to his post-inaugural sky-high boom if he "take(s) the bullhorn" and says to voters "I hear you," Parker writes.
     
  • Forget that. Obama should kiss bipartisanship goodbye and “get tough, get bold…and fight hard for jobs and a just economy of shared prosperity,” blogs Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation. Her message to other liberal pols: “The Democratic party can no longer run as a managerial and technocratic party.”

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