Republican candidate Scott P. Brown has pulled off a shock victory in the Massachusetts Senate election. Brown gained 51.9 percent of the vote, to the Democrat Martha Coakley’s 47.1 percent, in a win that has dealt a serious blow to President Barack Obama’s hopes for Health Care reform.
Brown’s election has provided the Republicans with the pivotal 41st Senate vote, losing Democrats their 60-40 supermajority necessary to pass major bills.
The state’s history as a Democrat stronghold should have assured an easy win for Democrat Candidate, State Attorney General Martha Coakley. Yet today, Democrats are reeling from the loss of a seat that, for the last 46 years, had been held by Edward Kennedy until his death in August.
The mood among Massachusetts Democrats, who expressed disbelief at the result, is one of considerable frustration. One resident from a Boston suburb said: “The result is a shock, especially since the Senate seat has been held by a Democrat for so long. The question now is whether the vote was a vote against Obama and the Health Care Bill.”
In the aftermath of Brown’s victory, Republicans are heralding the win as evidence of public disillusionment with the government. Obama’s approval ratings have been falling since he took office in January 2009.
This is the third significant loss for Democrats since November, when Republican candidates were elected as Governors in New Jersey and Virginia.
Coakley’s campaign was criticised as weak and lacklustre. After her selection as the Democrat Candidate in December, she was absent from the campaign trail over Christmas. This disadvantaged her at a time when conservative groups were mobilizing support for Brown.
Brown’s campaign focused on economic issues, securing him votes in areas with rates of high unemployment.
“I know I have a lot to learn in the Senate, but I know who I am and I know who I serve. I’m Scott Brown. I’m from Wrentham. And I drive a truck”, said Brown in his victory speech.
Brown has an unorthodox background for a politician. In 1982 he was photographed in the nude for a centrefold in Cosmopolitan magazine. Cosmopolitan are now rumoured to be interested in getting him back for another photoshoot.
Throughout his campaign, Brown successfully capitalised on his image as an ‘ordinary American’, driving around in a pick-up truck to woo voters.
Coakley had previously shown a significant lead in the polls. “It was a classic case of everybody getting caught napping”, said presidential advisor David Axelrod. Emboldened after almost half a century of Democrat control, the party’s over-confidence has lost them a crucial seat.
With the loss of the supermajority, it is almost inevitable that future bills will be blocked by the Republican Party. The future of the government’s Health Care plan is in jeopardy and other contentious legislation, such as climate change law, is likely to be more difficult to pass.
While recriminations are flying over the defeat, one thing is certain; Obama must reconsider his strategy in a drastically shifted political landscape.