Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's Election Day in Massachusetts. Whom to blame? What happens to healthcare reform? ... and the END of ONE YEAR in OFFICE for Obama...

Will the last day of Obama's first full year in office end on a sour note for the Democrats?... The Democratic blame game has already kicked into full gear.

How do Democrats start performing better with independents?... A GOP lesson learned in the Coakley-Brown contest -- it's a good thing to be an outsider. Polls close in Massachusetts at 8:00 pm ET. David Brooks sees Obama as a "pragmatic Leviathan". And Ted Strickland officially launches his re-election campaign.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg


*** OfTough End The Year? Today is officially the last day of President Obama's first full year in office. And there's the very real possibility that the year ends on a very sour note for the White House if Scott Brown (R) defeats Martha Coakley (D) in today's special Senate election in Massachusetts -- which would end the Democrats' filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, jeopardize health care's chances for passage, and result in the ultimate insult of a Republican winning the seat held by Jack and Ted Kennedy. Of course, Coakley could surprise the Beltway establishment and pull off the victory tonight; remember that it was almost two years ago to the day when another female candidate, Hillary Clinton, stunned us all in winning in another New England state, New Hampshire. Then again, Martha Coakley ain't Hillary Clinton.

*** The Blame Game: Win or lose, the Democratic blame game has already kicked into full gear, and there's plenty to go around. It starts with Coakley and EMILY's List, who clearly weren't ready to run a campaign in a challenging environment. Here's one email we received from a Democratic operative who is more than familiar with Massachusetts politics: "A different Democratic nominee and we're not having this discussion. There's no ideological playbook that urges candidates to see a primary victory as a coronation or go dark, literally disappearing from public view and staying off the air for close to 10 days just when voters were starting to focus." Also, the unpopularity of the Democratic leadership in Massachusetts -- it wasn't Obama in those Brown ads, but Deval Patrick -- has been a factor, as has the overall political environment. In short, all Democrats would own a Coakley loss. A good candidate/campaign could survive in a political environment like this. And a bad candidate/campaign wins if everything was going swimmingly for local and national Democrats.

*** So How Would Obama Own A Loss? It pains the White House to accept a defeat here, since they believe defeat was unavoidable (see: List, EMILY's). That said, if Coakley loses, this would be the third major election in a row (New Jersey, Virginia, Massachusetts) where the Democratic candidate has lost the very independent voters who put Democrats and Obama in victory lane in both 2006 and 2008. If the Democrats and the White House don't have a serious conversation about how they can gain credibility back with independents, they are fooling themselves. Perhaps they start with today's 11:30 am ET meeting at the White House with retiring GOP Sen. George Voinovich, who could be a potential vote on several issues.

*** Republican Lessons To Learn: Here's one thing Republicans can take away from this race: It's good to be an outsider. If you'll recall, just before the NY-23 special, we remarked that what made Doug Hoffman the perfect potential candidate -- and we stress the word potential, because Hoffman ended up losing -- was that he wasn't burdened with the GOP brand. He was running as a conservative, but NOT on the Republican ticket. And we wondered if that was the perfect way for a conservative candidate to both excite the conservative base and woo independents. In essence, Scott Brown was able to do something similar to Hoffman with one extra advantage: Unlike Hoffman, Brown had a personality. We now see the GOP path to victory right now in this toxic political environment for the establishment. Not only run as outsiders but actually be an outsider. It was easy for Brown since he had never had a Washington address. Of course, this isn't going to be as easy for a Roy Blunt in Missouri or a Rob Portman in Ohio or, as we're learning in Florida, a Charlie Crist.

*** What You Need To Know: Polls in Massachusetts open no later than 7:00 am ET, and they close at 8:00 pm ET. The state has never elected a female as U.S. senator or governor. A Republican hasn't held a U.S. Senate seat in the state since Edward Brooke in 1979, and the GOP hasn't held this particular seat since Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. in 1953. The winner will face re-election in 2012, when this seat's term expires. And a Gallup analysis shows that, in 2009, 49% of the state residents identified themselves as independents, 35% said they were Democrats, and 13% said they were Republicans. http://bit.ly/7uCblr

*** The Pragmatic Leviathan: As mentioned above, today is the final day of Obama's first full year in office, and we have a new NBC/WSJ poll coming out beginning at 6:30 pm ET that measures the president's first year. And the New York Times' David Brooks takes a stab at the White House's current troubles. While praising what he sees as Obama's pragmatism and thoughtfulness, Brooks writes that Obama has become a "voracious" pragmatist. "Driven by circumstances and self-confidence, the president has made himself the star performer in the national drama. He has been ubiquitous, appearing everywhere, trying to overhaul most sectors of national life: finance, health, energy, automobiles and transportation, housing, and education, among others. He is no ideologue, but over the past year he has come to seem like the sovereign on the cover of 'Leviathan' - the brain of the nation to which all the cells in the body and the nervous system must report and defer." http://bit.ly/7Bgmcf

*** Obama's Day: At 10:00 am ET, President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan hold a discussion at Graham Road Elementary School in Virginia with 6th Grade students. Then, 25 minutes later, the president delivers remarks on his "Race to the Top" education initiative.

*** More Midterm News: In Ohio today, Ted Strickland announces his lieutenant governor running mate and officially kicks off his campaign. And in Texas, the Texas Tribune is reporting that the top GOP and Democratic candidates for governor collected a combined $35 million in donations and loans last year. http://bit.ly/6RMDwb

Countdown to IL primary: 14 days
Countdown to TX primary: 42 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 287 days

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Election The Boston Globe previewing today's election: "From Pittsfield to Framingham, North Andover to Dorchester, the candidates for US Senate made a last dash across the state yesterday, issuing their final pitches to voters ahead of a special election today that has drawn the eyes of the nation."

More: "Massachusetts came to exemplify the nation's political divide in recent weeks, as Brown caught fire with voters -- including many independents - who are either disenchanted with Democratic leadership nationally or not sold on the Democratic nominee. Activists from the Tea Party Movement flocked to the state. Obama rallied Coakley supporters by saying Massachusetts had the power to determine the nation's course. And voters were besieged with TV ads, robocalls, fliers, and door-knockers urging them to vote for one candidate - or, often, simply against the other. The tense race became downright ugly in its final days." http://bit.ly/7oT5nU

The Washington Post: "Democrat Martha Coakley's struggle to stave off a potentially devastating defeat in Tuesday's special Senate election in Massachusetts marks a critical turning point in the year-long debate about health-care reform. Regardless of the outcome of the race, the two parties appeared headed toward a monumental clash over the issue in the coming midterm elections." http://bit.ly/8IqacJ

The Globe's Vennochi has some tough words for Brown: Scott Brown is running for U.S. Senate as a pleasant guy in a pickup truck. But a mean spirit drives some of his campaign. Coakley is accountable for her record as a prosecutor - and for her campaign mistakes. But her opponent should also be accountable for the unpleasant rhetoric that some of his supporters are embracing in the last hours of this hard-fought campaign.

And here's some of it: "Messages posted on Coakley's campaign Facebook include these vicious sentiments: 'Scott Brown should rape Martha Coakley and then deny her emergency contraception'. 'Martha Coakley getting raped would complete my life.' 'Abortion is wrong. Kill her.' After one message that states 'Looking forward to the rally Friday, Martha,' a woman named Amelia Bosley writes: 'Hope she gets shot.' Imagine putting your name to that in the name of political change." http://bit.ly/4ZthOk

The Globe's Cullen looks at a big problem for Coakley -- her inability to mobilize minority voters. "Fourteen months ago, there was a buzz on Blue Hill Ave. and the streets that run off it like caterpillar legs. This is the heart of the biggest minority community in the state, and the energy generated by the prospect of Barack Obama becoming president was palpable. Yesterday, I drove the length of Blue Hill Ave. and counted exactly two Martha Coakley signs. If Martha Coakley loses today, it won't be because she didn't put up enough signs on Blue Hill Ave. It'll be because she failed to convince enough of the people who put up the Obama signs on Blue Hill Ave. and a lot of other avenues across Massachusetts that Obama's ability to get anything done depends on her winning the election." One of the places where the sign was put up was in a laundromat, where the man behind the counter said he knew absolutely nothing about Coakley and that he wasn't sure he was going to vote. And many of the customers, he noted, are Haitian and aren't focused on the special election. http://bit.ly/6ffLzv

The New York Post puts the Massachusetts special election on its cover: "Critical Mass." and paints a loss as "bad for O." http://bit.ly/2PBsb5

Stu Rothenberg goes so far as to liken a potential Democratic loss in Massachusetts to the stock market collapse that led to the Great Depression: "If you are looking for an analogy for a Republican victory in Massachusetts, the best one for Democrats may well be the stock market crash of 1929. Come Tuesday night, you could have Democrats jumping out windows and off roofs." http://bit.ly/6Mw0CZ

OBAMA AGENDA: State of the Union is set
"President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address to Congress at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27," the New York Daily News writes. "As customary, the White House has asked all the major television networks to carry the speech live. But there was no immediate answer from Fox on whether it would preempt the hugely popular 'American Idol' that night." http://bit.ly/4UTdVF

President Obama sent his first Tweet. "Obama used the [American Red Cross'] page to tweet: 'President Obama and the First Lady are here visiting our disaster operation center right now.' The next tweet read, 'President Obama pushed the button on the last tweet. It was his first ever tweet!' It was the first time that the president who made history using social media during the 2008 election had personally used the technology." That, despite there having already been a Barack Obama to follow on Twitter -- which apparently was not run by the president, but staff.

CONGRESS: A speedy vote?
"Congressional Democrats are considering passing healthcare reform before the winner of the Massachusetts special election is seated in the upper chamber, Democratic sources say," The Hill reports. A senior Democratic aide said, "That would be an option." The aide also "downplayed an alternative scenario wherein the House would pass the Senate-approved healthcare bill without changes. Leaders will make a final decision when results of the election are known, but sources close to the Democratic leadership in both chambers say a speedy vote is the best option. Rushing the final bill through the Senate before Brown could take a seat would be difficult.

More: "The president and Democratic leaders must reach an agreement, receive a cost analysis from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and give lawmakers and the public 72 hours to review the final language. Finally, they must pass the bill through the House and wade through the final Republican procedural objections in the Senate before clearing the bill to President Barack Obama. This would be complicated enough in normal circumstances, but if Brown wins, they would have to do it within a span of seven to 15 days." http://bit.ly/6Wyw6X

"Even as Democratic leaders pondered contingencies [in the wake of today's election], the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, insisted that the legislation would move forward, though she acknowledged that Tuesday's results could force a tactical shift. 'Certainly the dynamic will change depending on what happens in Massachusetts," Ms. Pelosi told reporters in California on Monday. 'Just the question of how we would proceed. But it doesn't mean we won't have a health care bill.'" More Pelosi: "'Let's remove all doubt,' she added. 'We will have health care one way or another.'" http://bit.ly/5etHZk

MORE MIDTERMS: Wide open in Minnesota
HAWAII: The Hill reports on a new Mason-Dixon poll showing former Rep. Ed Case (D) with an early lead [37%] in the "yet-to-be-declared special election for Rep. Neil Abercrombie's (D) seat." http://bit.ly/5swqaj

MAINE: "The roster of gubernatorial hopefuls has grown to 23," including the former chief of staff to Senator Olympia Snowe, the Bangor Daily News reported over the weekend. "For those still keeping count, the breakdown is now seven Republicans, eight Democrats, one Green Independent and seven politically unaffiliated or "unenrolled" candidates." http://bit.ly/5oW7ba

MINNESOTA: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune notes how wide open the gubernatorial race is now that Norm Coleman has opted not to run. "Coleman's long-awaited decision, on one hand, clarifies some elements of the long-simmering governor's race and, on the other, unsettles others. Even DFL Party Chair Brian Melendez had mixed feelings about Coleman's political departure." http://bit.ly/6lRHfX

NEW YORK: Is this quote, from a 2006 debate, going to haunt Harold Ford in his New York Senate bid? "A questioner during a 2006 debate asked Ford about his record, ticking off several of his conservative views and votes, including his support for school prayer and a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. 'I know one thing,' Ford said at the time, 'it doesn't describe a liberal.'" http://bit.ly/5Y2nuG

"In his toughest comments to date, Harold Ford cast Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Monday as a 'weak' puppet of the state's political establishment who has failed to connect with voters after a year in office," the New York Daily News writes. He said: "There is no doubt that Sen. Gillibrand is weak in many places across the city and the state. At best, there is interest in hearing an alternative." http://bit.ly/4ylTB2

And then this: "The Rev. Al Sharpton gave potential Senate hopeful Harold Ford Jr. a boost yesterday, slotting him to speak before Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand at a Martin Luther King Day celebration -- and then leaving with him for a Westchester event while the senator remained on the dais," The New York Post writes. "The eye-catching moves came as Ford, a Tennessee transplant, is deciding whether to run." http://bit.ly/4Xmu1W

And this forming CW: "Many New York Democratic insiders are privately speculating that if the Democrats face a Martha Coakley loss -- or near-loss -- in Massachusetts to GOPer Scott Brown in tomorrow's senate election, it increases the odds of a Harold Ford Jr. candidacy," the New York Post's Haberman writes. "The logic, several longtime Democratic strategists and insiders said, is that if Coakley loses such a blue state -- and the seat held by Ted Kennedy, one of the senate's most liberal members, for nearly 50 years -- then it spells trouble for other Dem incumbents in the fall." http://bit.ly/914tnB

Gillibrand leads Ford in a new Siena Research Institute poll out Monday 41%-17%. But barely cracking 40% may not be the best sign for the senator. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0110/31616.html

TEXAS: "The top candidates in the Texas governor's race collected more than $35 million in campaign donations and loans last year," the Texas Tribune reports, taking a look at data compiled from all the candidates' campaign receipts after Fridays' year-end filings with the Texas Ethics Commission. Top Republican candidates Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison raised a combined $24 million in 2009, with Hutchison spending $8.2 million and Perry spending $6 million. http://bit.ly/6RMDwb

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