Analyzing the Massachusetts Senate Race

While Conservatives are celebrating in the streets, Liberals are hanging their heads in shame and party leaders on both sides are pontificating this morning, it’s necessary to take a look at the loss of Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts and why this election was NOT a referendum on health care.

Historically, midterm elections and special elections falling near a midterm election do not bode well for the Party in control of the White House. In the last 17 midterm elections “the president’s party has lost an average 28 seats in the House, and an average 4 seats in the Senate.” Based on what the last 34 years has shown us, we can clearly expect more losses in November.

These seat losses aren’t purely because voters are unhappy with the sitting President’s policies, much of the seat losses have to do with party mobilization. Voting members of the party in power will sometimes feel complacent, the party not in power often uses current policies of the Administration to mobilize their voters, getting a higher than normal turnout. In the Massachusetts race, “…turnout was depressed for this special election compared with last year’s general election. About 54 percent of registered voters turned out, compared with 73 percent in November 2008. In President Obama’s strongest areas — towns where he received more than 60 percent of the vote — the number of voters was about 30 percent below 2008 levels. In the rest of the state, the number of voters was down just 25 percent. In Boston — one of the strongest areas for Democrats — the number voting fell 35 percent.” GOTV plays a crucial factor, and has for many elections.

Another area that was lacking in this race was the failure of the Coakley campaign to up the ante when Brown’s poll numbers started to rise. Just as in the 2004 Presidential election, the campaign had a smug attitude that it was impossible for them to lose. According to a Senior Democratic official, “The DNC and the DSCC did everything they were asked and have been involved in the race for several weeks not just the last one – The campaign failed to recognize this threat, failed to keep Coakley on the campaign trail, failed to create a negative narrative about Brown, failed to stay on the air in December while he was running a brilliant campaign.” The offical went on to refer to the campaign as “the worst debacle in American political history.”

Finally, and most importantly, Liberals must realize that this election was not a referendum on health care reform. Senator Ted Kennedy held this seat for 47 years. As we all know, health care was his most important issue, dedicating his entire life just to get to where we are today. Had Senator Kennedy not passed, he would have once again been elected and Senator Brown would not have had a chance to fill this seat.

Democrats in office must remember, this is not a sign that the agenda needs to be stopped or slowed down, but in fact, it needs to be pushed harder. Look to history to find that this is not abnormal, nor unexpected. More losses will come due to mobilization efforts (specifically, the Tea Party Movement), but look to trends and keep strong in the fight.

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