Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Mass. Mess: They got complacent and they got cute

Much is being made among the political chattering class (and most readers here and this writer are part of that group) of Republican Scott Brown's upset of Democrat Martha Coakley in the special election held in Massachusetts to fill the Senate seat once held by the late Ted Kennedy.

Many are saying that it was a referendum on President Barack Obama and plans for reforming health care in America (OK, "many" is shorthand "any Republican who can find a microphone").

There may have been some of that (I don't really think so, though, not in MA), but it was more a referendum on the campaign conducted by Martha Coakley and the Democrats in Massachusetts,

Many people, including me, thought the race to fill Ted Kennedy's unexpired term was over after the Democratic primary.

Given the huge D registration advantage in MA and the high-profile D nominee (Coakley is the sitting AG in Massachusetts), it should have been.

However, that didn't account for a dreadfully complacent candidate and party structure, or a well-run campaign by the R nominee, Brown.

Coakley actually went on vacation during the campaign; understandable if it was a two-year campaign and she needed to decompress and recharge, but jaw-droppingly arrogant during a two-month one. In addition to that, party donors and activists slacked off after the primary and stayed on the sidelines long enough for Brown to gain traction.

None of this would have mattered if the MassDems hadn't gotten cute during the Romney administration a few years back.

Ted Kennedy's health had been failing for years, so, worried that Republican Romney might have had an opportunity to appoint a U.S. Senator of his liking, the Ds in the MA lege forced through a change to the law there that took the power to fill a vacant Senate seat away from the governor and created a special election process.


The really embarrassing part of this (as if losing the seat held by Ted Kennedy for almost five decades to a lightweight like Brown isn't embarrassing enough) is that if any of the movers and shakers in the Massachusetts Democratic Party or working on the Coakley campaign had ever read Tip O'Neill's autobiography Man of the House or his political primer All Politics is Local, they would have known better than to take an opponent, any opponent, for granted.

And if political operatives in any state have read Tip O'Neill, Massachusetts' politicos have.

Or at least *should* have.

BTW - for all of the talk about the dominance of Democrats in Mass, everyone should remember that Mass voters have voted for Republicans in the recent past. For 16 years, from 1991 until 2007, they had Republican governors there.

Voters there have and will cast their ballots in support of the better candidate, even if that candidate is a Republican (as long as he isn't a Yankees fan too :) ), and simply put, Scott Brown ran a better campaign than Martha Coakley did over the last couple of months.

Now the race starts anew - Brown's filler term ends in 2012. Then he has to run for a full term, with the accompanying full length campaign where no one will underrate him.

In some ways, this will be more fun to watch than a Coakley term. Now Brown has to find a way to placate his teabagger base while not alienating the vast majority of the MA electorate.

Not sure if he developed that skill set required for that as a backbencher the woefully outclassed Republican caucus of the Massachusetts State Senate.

He has shown that he is a skilled campaigner. Will he be a skilled elected official?


Thane Eichenauer said...

The complacent and not so cute habits of the Democrat, progressive, liberal, pseudo-centrists are as prevalent as ever. From the very top of the TV totem pole to nearly every blog I follow in Arizona they all seem to be addicted to disparaging Tea Party supporters as tea baggers. Not a single leftist person I have ever spoken with has felt the need to stop calling Tea Party supporters just that and not tea baggers.

While I can be catty and satiric as the next guy I do believe that being civil and polite can earn any movement points in any given arena.

Of course y'all can continue speculating in public that the Coakley loss was all due to a bad campaign or a bad candidate and not the fact more government health care spending and regulation just ain't as popular as you make out. I am sure the Republicans would like you to keep thinking that more government health care is what America is clamoring for.

I only say this because I find the predominant big government and big war support of the average Republican congressman to be just as repulsive as the enthusiasm that the average Democratic congressman has for more government spending, more government taxing and more government borrowing.

I think those Democratic congressmen who aren't completely bamboozled into believing what they read in the news have already let Nancy Pelosi know that their support for more government has ebbed. Mitchell, Giffords and Kirkpatrick will likely start polishing up their impersonations of centrists over the next 10 month. I really don't mind if it is all a show on their parts as nobody can tell if their votes are sincere anyway.

Donna said...

Right, because people who hold up signs featuring the President as a witch doctor with a bone through his nose deserve the utmost respect and civility.

Sorry, teabaggers, but I'm going to continue calling you that because it's hilarious and it makes you very, very upset.

pterenzio2004 said...

Craig, at least among my friends, it had to do with the health care bill and with spending. (not our family but you know that already). Brown ran a fantastic campaign and did everything right. He met with people and shook hands. Martha felt she was too good. When I met him, it was at a library with about 50 attendees. He made a point to greet each person. Coupled with that Rasmussen poll two weeks ago that had him in single digits spurring donations and interest, everything peaked just at the right time for him. Martha had an ad during the December primary that said "On Tuesday you elect your next Senator". That spoke volumes about her attitude.

Mass Dem leaders did this to themselves changing the laws to suit them. It backfired and bit them.

Republicans here are not like national Republicans. Our R candidate for Governor is awesome (in my opinion) and has an openly gay running mate. Only in Mass could he do that. We do have a history of electing R governors (and the current D governor reminds us why). Our legislature is so heavily D and the last three speakers indicted. Never understood why we do that and elect R governors.....

Coakley and her outside supporters went heavily negative and fast. It backfired on her. I think the President's visit didn't help her much with independents, he came off condescending talking about the truck, but I do think it spurred some of her less enthused voters to actually head to the polls.

I'm not sure I see a situation where he isn't re-elected, especially if the R candidate for Governor wins. The next few months will be interesting.

I agree with Thane about civility. I'm more than happy to discuss with people who treat me with respect. There are fringe in every group - let's remember the pictures of Pres. Bush as Hitler. I agree with the intent of Tea Party supporters, not all the methods. I find it interesting that our representatives didn't listen back in August during the town halls but a mid term election in MA has everyone in DC putting the brakes on.

Thane Eichenauer said...

You are free to continue with your choice of words. Your use of words that offend will drive people away from your favorite political causes and will drive voters away from your favorite political candidates. There is a reason why it is trying for an average decent American to watch the Rachel Maddow show.

Feel free to drive Joe and Jane America away from supporting modern day liberalism. I am just pointing out the fact that your actions have negative reactions.

As for signs, if you allow one guy with an Obama witch doctor sign to bring you down to using gutter terms then the guy with the sign has won.

Elizabeth Rogers said...

Coakley was not going to be a sparkly candidate. AG is not a sparkly role.

pterenzio2004 said...

Elizabeth, it had nothing to do w/sparkly. We're a state that chose Clinton over Obama in the primary last year - Clinton's not sparkly. It had everything to do with Scott Brown working for it and Martha Coakley coasting after the primary. She went to DC, met with lobbyists, looked at apartments, and took a vacation. She insulted voters with comments on radio - maybe not intentionally but she was in over her head and had no national support until it was too late. Mr. Brown went and shook as many hands as he could. He worked for this, which made people think he'd work hard for us. I met him prior to the primary. At that time he was focused only on winning the primary. He did everything right; coupled with the amazing timing of things for him, it worked. Much like last October's economic meltdown and McCain's mishandling and the cool, calm reserve of Obama. Brown was smart enough to take from Obama's campaign playbook and it worked. Ms. Coakley appeared entitled and elitist. I personally had an issue with her keeping an innocent man in prison to further her career, but it wasn't a deciding factor. Neither was her personality, or lack thereof. I want balance and compromise in DC and I want health care reform but not back room deals and middle class excise taxes on my plan, but not unions.

This campaign and its effect on national politics is absolutely fascinating.

Donna - I don't know you. But I do know your words don't upset me as much as they make you look petty. My son (Craig's brilliant, handsome nephew) has learned that he needs to learn to listen to and respect his opponents position because everyone has something worthwhile to add. Craig and I often disagree but we can discuss without insulting each other. Maybe if folks had that attitude more, there would be less derision and more bipartisan in DC and beyond. Conservatives and liberals alike love this country.

I love this topic - so glad Craig posted.

Elizabeth Rogers said...

Clinton may not be super sparkly but she still has some. Coakley had zero.

cpmaz said...

With a longer campaign period, "sparkly" wouldn't have mattered. Coakley would have been able to work the circuit, meeting people one-on-one. She wouldn't have had to wow crowds.

However, she couldn't do that in the few weeks of the special election's campaign period, especially when she took time off for vacation.

If she decides to try for the seat in 2012, she should start campaigning immediately after the elections taking place this November.

Thane - we call them "tea baggers" because that is what they called themselves. In other words, we are not being uncivil, we're just using their own words against them.

If they want to complain about others (like lefty bloggers) being "uncivil", perhaps they should try being civil themselves (no more hanging effigies of Barack Obama or African American Congressmen would be a good start).

Thane Eichenauer said...

Y'all keep on believing that modern day liberals that term for the reasons you give and I'll continue believing that Obama deserves his Nobel Peace Prize.

As for the effigy folks I hope (just a little) that you don't think that the 0.1% is representative of the other 99.9%. Even if you do think that Tea Party supporters secretly wish they had the guts to make their own effigies the point about letting the folks with the evil and nasty messages bring you down to their level still applies.