On Tuesday night, Scott Brown shocked the world by defeating Martha Coakley and capturing the seat that Ted Kennedy held for more than 40 years. It was a momentous election, not just because it featured a Republican ending the Democrats’ filibuster proof majority by capturing a seat in deep blue Massachusetts, but because it shattered a number of memes that have been treated in many circles as conventional wisdom.
1) The GOP is just a regional party that’s limited to the south: After northern Republicans were almost wiped off the map in the last two elections, many Democrats started claiming that the GOP had been reduced to nothing more than a small, regional rump party that was limited to the south.
Of course, the truth was actually that moderates in blue states and marginally red districts were the weakest links and therefore, were the first to be culled when the political environment became hostile to Republicans. However, as Scott Brown just proved, now that the political climate favors the GOP again, blue states and districts across the country are in play again.
2) There has been a political realignment: During the Bush years, Karl Rove was supposedly engineering a new conservative majority that was going to last for the long haul. We all know how that turned out. Well, after Bush lost, Democrats allowed themselves to buy into the same conceit.
Although mediocre Democratic poll numbers and GOP victories in the Governor’s races in Virginia and New Jersey were strong indicators that the American people were unhappy, those problems could be explained away. The same can’t truly be said of this race. As Barbara Boxer admitted, “Every state is now in play” and those dreams of a permanent Democratic majority? Well, let’s just say that the dream is dead.
3) Health care reform is a winning issue for the Democrats: Despite the terrible poll numbers for health care reform, liberals have been insisting that socialized medicine is a winning issue.
In Massachusetts, that theory was put to the test as both candidates campaigned heavily on the issue. Perhaps more importantly, the electorate voted on the issue. According to Rasmussen polling, “56% of Massachusetts voters named health care as the most important issue“ and “41% Strongly Opposed the plan while just 25% Strongly Favored it.”
If Democrats can’t win an election on health care in Massachusetts with Ted Kennedy’s widow telling people that health care was the “cause of his life” and only Martha Coakley could go to DC and finish his work, then where is the issue going to be a winner for them?
4) Conservatives want to drive moderates from the party: One of the most tiresome complaints from RINOs over the last few years has been that conservatives want to drive them from the party. Why, if the Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint crowd has their way, there won’t be a moderate left in the party!
One problem: that’s simply not true. While Conservatives have shown little enthusiasm for moderate candidates in strongly red states and districts, we’ve said again and again that we’re willing to support moderate candidates if they’re the best the GOP can do in a particular area. In Scott Brown’s case, while he’s well to the right-of-center, he’s not a firebreathing conservative. To the contrary, he’s pro-choice, supported Romneycare, and has previously supported a cap-and-trade system. Yet, Brown received fierce support from conservatives all across the country.
5) Barack Obama’s charisma can carry the Democrats through to victory: Yes, Barack Obama beat John McCain handily, gives a good speech, and has been treated by the mainstream media like he can do no wrong. Of course, George W. Bush’s approval rating was also in the high eighties at one point. How did that work out for the Republican Party by the end of his second term?
In Obama’s case, his approval rating has already dropped like a rock and he has been unable to provide much of a boost in key races around the country. Obama has now personally campaigned for Creigh Deeds, Jon Corzine, and Martha Coakley — all of whom went down to defeat. Barack Obama may have the support of Democrats across the country, but he doesn’t seem to be able to get them to turn out anymore and his appeal to independents seems to have evaporated. So, any hopes that Barack Obama’s “star power” could shield the Democrats from heavy losses in 2010 have now faded.