The stunning loss of the Massachusetts Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy since 1962 speaks more to the failure of the Democratic Party candidate than it does to slipping confidence in President Obamaâ€™s legislative agenda. While Attorney General Martha Coakley had several gaffs, none were significant enough to lose an election on their own. Coakley gave this one away. She sat on her ass over the holidays, thinking she had it in the bag. She did the one thing that no candidate, Republican or Democrat, should ever do. She took her likely voters for granted, and she lost them.
This is her loss, just as Creigh Deeds loss in Virginia was his. Just days before the election the same internal polls that showed Coakley five points behind Scott Brown, showed President Obama with a 60 percent approval rating. Last ThursdayÂ a Suffolk University poll showed Brown with a 50 to 46 percent lead over Coakley. That same poll showed President Obama with a 55 percent approval rating.
This loss will make things more difficult for the Democrats in the Senate to move things forward. However, the 60 vote control of the Senate was weak on its best day. This should not be a barrier to progress on a progressive legislative agenda. The GOP with a single vote majority (counting Vice President Cheney) in the Senate was able to push through some of the most conservative legislative agendas in modern times.
What will be required is bold leadership. Unfortunately, Iâ€™m not so sure that Harry Reid is the man for that job. How the loss of this Senate seat will affect the progress of health insurance reform remains to be seen. Even with the weak 60 votes in the Democratic caucus, final approval of a bill by both the Senate and House was going to be tough. While I am not happy about the prospect, it may be the best option for Pelosi to get the House to agree to most of the Senate bill, and then fix it before the reforms are fully implemented through reconciliation.