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?