Coakley’s loss is not a referendum on President Obama

Martha Coakley

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 Obama’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 Thursday 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, I’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.

  16 comments for “Coakley’s loss is not a referendum on President Obama

  1. JimiBob
    January 19, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    I watched The Biggest Loser tonight and it wasn’t the television show, it was the Democratic Party.

  2. Brain
    January 19, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Chris, I have to disagree. This election was all about Obama and his health care plan. My whole family are life long Kennedy democrats in Mass, all voting for Brown to send a message to Obama. Obama will destroy the party if they do not stop this giveaway to the insurance companies. Nobody wants his plan, left, right or center. He has wasted an entire year and has thrown several democratic constituencies under the bus. You question Reid’s ability to lead? Obama couldn’t sell water in the desert. I fear he will bring the whole party down as we are now seen as the party of Wall Street, big banks, insurance companies, and pharma. The guy is in totally over his head. He couldn’t pass an agenda in 2009, forget it now, they smell blood in the water. This guy will be a trivial pursuit question in 20 years, forget a transitional presidency. Bush had more balls than Obama could dream of having. Don’t run on hope and change and cynically make deals with sleazy Senators and insurance executives while filling your cabinet with Goldman Sachs execs. Sorry to run on but Obama was the worst vote I ever made, and I am a liberal.

  3. Steve
    January 19, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    A progressive legislative agenda? Are you kidding me? If you haven’t figured out by now that this President, and this Congress, are not about a progressive legislative agenda, well, I don’t know what to say about that lack of ability to acknowledge objective reality. And the reason that the GOP-lead Senate was so successful in advancing the Bush agenda is exactly BECAUSE the Democratic caucus is so weak…and so not “progressive”.

    • January 21, 2010 at 7:40 am


      My point was that there should be NO barrier to a progressive agenda. There never should have been. I agree, the Democratic caucus is WEAK. They need to grow a spine.

  4. Dan Chmielewski
    January 20, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Brown ran a campaign that only embrace core Republican issues very late in the game. Republicans can only thrive in Massachusetts when they are moderate (Weld, Celucci and even Romney ran as social liberals..always funny to watch YouTube videos of Romney debating Kennedy in 1994 trashing Reagan). I suspect someone will step up and challenge Brown next time around.

  5. Slatemag
    January 20, 2010 at 9:39 am

    You aren’t walking dead, are you? Obama as a captain of Democratic Party and didn’t figure out an attack from Scott Brown and GOP how can he not be a blame from this big loss? If not for his Heathcare reform and hand-out to the Wall Street whatelse can you think of? The independent voters are leaving “Yes you can” promise by Obama in row to give the Republicans in Virginia, New Jersey and Mass. Don’t listen to Axel and Rahm’s spin any more. Wake up and smell the roses once awhile!

    • January 21, 2010 at 7:49 am

      Obama campaigned for Brown, as did Bill Clinton and a host of other national democrats. Like with Deeds in Virginia, Coakley was a poor candidate who took the voters for granted. Polls of voters who claim to have voted for Brown and also Obama show that 37% felt that the Democrats were not being agressive enough in pushing through their agenda.

      I will agree that the voters are pissed off that nothing has changed. But there is still majority support for President Obama. If this is a referendum on anything other than Coakley’s campaign, it is one of anger that even with a “soft” super majority in the Senate, the caucus has demonstrated no spine.

  6. Toni Gilmont
    January 20, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Chris, I agree totally with your evaluation of what was really happening in Mass. — we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get on with the work that needs to be done for the people of this great country. We have many in our Party who work hard each and every day to make life better for all — they will continue and get past this temporary bleep on our road to success. Obama has done a superlative job in so many areas, we must remember that and be totally supportive for it will add to our lives in so many wonderful ways — onward ever onward!

  7. Slatemag
    January 20, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    The people spoke last night they want no part of a big government to do FOR them. They can take care themselves. This is not the first time. They spoke in Virginia, then New jersey, the Mass. Three times you out! No wonder you and Chris are the same bedfellows.

  8. Jurgens
    January 20, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Kind of dense, aren’t you?

  9. junior
    January 20, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

    Think about this quote for a second and ask yourself, does this quote apply to the way you run your political party?

  10. January 20, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    You are truly UNINFORMED. It is Many Democrats, who are trying to save the Democratic Party from SELF-DESTRUCION by NerObama who are NOT SUPPORTING OBAMA’s NAZI BILL with the illegal, Unconstitutional, Unelected Medical Advisory Board, with the life and death power over whose health care gets funded and whose DOESN’T!!!
    The following California Democrats are among at least 99 Congressman who have signed the letter of Democratic Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, which he has sent to Nancy Pelosi,,,,,, telling her they absolutely will NOT support the Senate Bill, which includes this:
    Judy Chu, Susan Davis, Sam Farr, Bob Filner, Mike Honda, Doris Matsui, Laura Richardson, Linda Sanchez, Pete Stark, Mike Thompson, Lynn Woolsey.

    I want an answer from you!!! Gerald Pechenuk, LaRouche PAC

  11. January 21, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Your silence is pure cowardice. I repeat, it is the Democrats listed above who are trying to save the DEMOCRATIC PARTY from DESTROYING ITSELF by bailing out BIG INSURANCE COMPANIES, etc… YOU ALREADY AGREED THE SENATE BILL IS NO GOOD, SO WHY NOT TELL THE TRUTH!!
    The excuse that “something” is better then “nothing,” is just pure bullshit!

  12. January 21, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Further update: Pelosi had ZERO, NONE, NO MEMBERS of the DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS WOULD VOTE FOR THE SENATE BILL- This report was received at LaRouche PAC Headquarters this Thursday at 2:10 PM Pacific Coast Time!!!!
    Chris, do you think that the fact that EVERY DEMOCRATIC MEMBER OF THE HOUSE REFUSED TO VOTE FOR THE SENATE BILL tells you anything? Duh……..

  13. Jo
    January 22, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    I agree with many of the comments above, it was about Obama. It is Obama’s policies that are being rejected, his approval rating is high because of his personality, he is likeable but wrong. The Democrats need to move towards the center, that is where most Americans are, however the loudest Dems are left of left.

  14. junior
    January 23, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Chris Matthews, of all people, slices and dices Chris Pre .., I mean Howard Dean.

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