Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I suppose it depends on whether you think health care reform is really going to pass -- I don't think it will, though most of the political world disagrees, notwithstanding the recent assertions by Charlie Rangel and Chris Dodd that the bill is in trouble -- and whether you think the president can get 60 votes in the Senate this year for any of the rest of his agenda (particularly on climate and immigration legislation, I have serious doubts).

Look, it's obvious that unless Coakley wins by 20 points or more, the conventional wisdom (as I foresaw) is going to be that the Democrats lost. ABC's Note has already called the race for the GOP, while predicting a Coakley win:

Did Republicans already win in Massachusetts?

Not next Tuesday's Senate election itself, of course -- few observers really think that's winnable even now, no matter how toxic the environment for Democrats these days.

But the fact that this is a race at all -- or, at least, the fact that it's being treated like a race over the final week -- is itself a victory that tells important tales for both parties....

Democrats are being forced to spend very real resources in a place they should not, by any calculation, have to worry about it. They're being met by resources (perhaps a more renewable variety at this stage) that Republicans never dreamed would be worth spending.

And they're being forced to combat the very real perception that if it can happen in the Hub, it can happen in Arkansas or Nevada or Virginia, too....

(I don't even understand that last sentence -- Massachusetts is less Democratic than Arkansas, Nevada, and Virginia? Oh, and "the Hub" is the nickname for Boston, not Massachusetts.)

So if (as seems likely) Coakley wins a tighter-than-expected race, is that better or worse for Democrats in 2010 (and, thus, for the next two years) than an upset by Brown?

Think about it. We already know that a tight Coakley win will be declared a Democratic loss. Coakley will be the 60th vote for health care, but a bill might fail anyway (with the failure blamed on the majority party), or it might pass and continue to be (as it is now) unpopular. And then the other big fights of 2010 will go pretty much the same way: Democrats, on paper, have the numbers to prevail, but the bills will be fought and demagogued and lied about by Republicans and right-wing pundits and bloviators, and by opportunistic Blue Dogs, and the end result will be inaction, weak bills, or some combination of the two. This is what Democrats will have to run on in the midterms.

Now imagine a Brown win. First off, there'll be no chance anymore that the health care bill will die because of the incompetent cat-herding skills of Democratic leaders -- it'll die at the hands of Brown and the GOP's new cloture-proof superminority.

As will everything else on the president's agenda.

Now we'll have a new narrative going into the midterms: Obama vs. the do-nothing Congress. Obama and congressional Democrats vs. the Party of Obstructionism, the Party of No.

Am I crazy to think that just might be an easier narrative for Democrats to win with, or at least to stave off huge losses with?

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