The President of the United States is going to Massachusetts this weekend to campaign for Democratic US Senate nominee Martha Coakley. Former President Bill Clinton has already campaigned for Coakley, as have a laundry list of other Democratic Party heavyweights. The problem is that Republican Scott Brown has surged ahead in the polls in the special election to fill what Democrats call “Ted Kennedy’s senate seat.”
The fact that the race is even competitive is historic. A Republican has not won election to the United States Senate in Massachusetts since Edward Brooke won in 1972. A Republican has not served in the United States Senate from Massachusetts since Brooke’s retirement in January of 1979. To put it in perspective, the last time a Republican was elected to the United States Senate from Massachusetts:
Richard Nixon was the President of the United States and had soaring popularity. (Watergate was a back page break-in story.)
President Obama was eleven years old.
The wealthy and technologically savvy were embracing cutting edge electronics such as the hand held calculator and the video game “Pong.”
The internet was still a project handled by the military and academics.
Wall Street was thrilled as the DOW broke 1,000.
Rotary dial telephones and over the air television reception were the norm in the vast majority of American homes.
Harry Truman was still alive.
The list can and does go on, but the above facts help make the point. What is happening in Massachusetts is historical. Even if Brown winds up losing, the fact that the election was this close reflects badly upon the President and the Democrats.
That is why the President is “doubling down” in Massachusetts this weekend. He really has no choice. If Coakley loses, it will thwart the President on health care reform. The closeness of the contest already has Congressional Democrats looking worried about November. If the President goes to Massachusetts and Coakley defeats Brown, then the President will be able to point to his influence as a reason for nervous Democrats to stick with him. If Brown wins, the President will at least be able to say he is loyal to those loyal to him. Simply put, there is no other way to the President can play the situation.
However, the President is facing taking his credibility into an increasingly dirty race. As Attorney General, Coakley was well respected going into the election. However, the stress of the campaign has gotten to her and other Democrats. Coakley recently remarked on a radio show that devout Catholics “probably shouldn’t work in emergency rooms,” due to their religious beliefs. Senator Charles Schumer of New York added to the nastiness when he called Scott Brown a “tea bagger,” apparently referring to someone who practices a particular sex act that for Brown would be a homosexual sex act. That remark came on the heels of left news outlets republishing pictures from Brown’s youth when he was a male model. (The unspoken political goal of such is that if some conservatives get the notion that Brown seems gay, those conservatives stay home instead of go vote.)
Such candidate meltdowns and surrogate attacks are typically a sign of a campaign in trouble. Ironically, Martha Coakley’s campaign looks more like Elizabeth Dole’s 2008 Senate loss in North Carolina then it does Barack Obama’s energetic campaigns. Indeed, it seems Brown has the energy and the “Big Mo” as President Bush the Elder once put it.
On Tuesday night, America and Massachusetts will know who won what has become a national political fight. One thing is certain, though. If the Republicans can wage a historically competitive campaign in a state like Massachusetts, the left’s contention that the Republican Party was dead 14 months ago was wrong. Indeed, if Brown wins, not only will he give the Republicans the power of the filibuster, he will strike fear into the hearts of Congressional Democrats who have to face the voters in November. Fourteen months ago, such a thing was unimaginable to the left and the mainstream media.