Friday, June 10, 2011


In early 2010, when Scott Brown beat Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts Senate race, a lot of Democrats thought a good part of the blame belonged to Coakley herself, who ran a poor campaign, and even managed to offend fans of the Boston Red Sox with ill-informed remarks about a Sox pitcher revered for having pitched a World Series game with a bleeding tendon injury. After Brown won, Charles Krauthammer airily downplayed the importance of Coakley poor campaign skills (he blamed her loss exclusively on the unpopularity of the Obama agenda, particularly the health care bill):

Democratic cocooners will tell themselves that Coakley was a terrible candidate who even managed to diss Curt Schilling. True, Brown had Schilling. But Coakley had Obama. When the bloody sock beats the presidential seal -- of a man who had them swooning only a year ago -- something is going on beyond personality.

Now a special election has taken place in upstate New York, in which a Republican in a red district has lost to a Democrat. Guess who's a "cocooner" now?

Last month, Democrats turned the race for the 26th Congressional District of New York into a referendum on Medicare, and more specifically on the Paul Ryan plan for reforming it. The Republicans lost the seat -- after having held it for more than four decades.

Problem was, their candidate was weak, defensive, unschooled and unskilled in dealing with the issue. Republicans have a year to cure that. If they can train their candidates to be just half as fluent as Ryan in defending their Medicare plan, they would be able to neutralize the issue.

Yeah, right: it wasn't the issue itself -- Jane Corwin was just a Republican Martha Coakley.

I'm willing to say that neither of these surprise defeats could be 100% attributed to anything. Coakley lost because of anger (largely ginned up, but real) about the Obama agenda as well as because of her poor campaigning. About Corwin's skills on the stump, I know nothing. But you really would have to be in a cocoon to deny that the bulk of her problem was the Ryan plan.

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