The Massachusetts special election in graph form
That graph is from Joshua Tucker, and it's worth thinking about a bit. The reaction to the Massachusetts special election is obviously about the grim prospects of 2010 rather than the loss of one seat. The psychological impact on congressional Democrats of losing Ted Kennedy's seat is akin to the impact Lehman's fall had on Wall Street -- it means nobody is safe.
But this is, still, just the loss of one seat, in one race. Martha Coakley's campaign was a carousel of gaffes and lethargy. Scott Brown ran a skilled effort presenting himself as a handsome independent. The difference between the two candidates was about 100,000 votes. That's not to deny the obvious role that dissatisfaction with Obama, the Democrats, and the state of the country played in this race. But I don't know anyone -- literally, anyone -- who doesn't believe a better Democratic candidate could have held the seat in Massachusetts.
For that reason, perceptions really are everything here. And Democrats seem determined to lose control of them. If Democrats had pointed to something like the graph above, lamented losing such an important seat due to the failures of their woeful candidate, but shrugged it off and promised to take it back in 2010, this would still be a big story, but the media would be hard-pressed to make it a big deal. If Democrats had reacted to Brown's victory by angrily attacking the Republicans for holding up and continually distorting the party's central legislative initiative, it would have been trivially easy to explain the Massachusetts special election in terms of how important it is for Democrats to pass health-care reform, rather than how important it is for them to wait. And if Democrats were still en route to passing health care next week, the Brown story would seen be on its way out of the headlines.
Instead, Democrats, with 59 votes in the Senate and a 40-vote margin in the House, seem ready to treat Brown's election as if they just lost the majority. That's in their head, of course, rather than in last night's election results. But if they don't get out of that mindset, then it's pretty sure to be in November's election results.
January 20, 2010; 8:56 AM ET
Categories: 2010 Midterms
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