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Friday, January 15, 2010

President Obama in the Bay State 



The Politico headline characterizes President Obama's trip to Massachusettes Massachusetts, announced earlier today, to campaign for Senate candidate Martha Coakley on Sunday afternoon as "risky bet."
President Barack Obama will travel to Massachusetts on Sunday afternoon to campaign for Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley — a risky bet that puts Obama’s own credibility on the line on behalf of a weak candidate in hopes of averting a loss that would shatter the party’s 60-seat Senate supermajority.

Obama’s trip represents a stark, late recognition not just that Coakley may lose, but also that her defeat can’t be spun away. The defection of independent voters and some Democrats in one of the nation’s most liberal states would deal a stunning, and possibly fatal, blow to the centerpiece of Obama’s first-year agenda, health care reform, which congressional leaders would be left trying to jam through using procedural loopholes.

“It’s all about 60,” said a senior White House official.
To use a baseball analogy as it relates to a "closer," Democrats better hope that President Obama is more like the Brad Lidge of 2008 (41 saves, 0 blown saves, 1.95 ERA) than the Brad Lidge of 2009 (31 saves, 11 blown saves, 7.21 ERA). Of course, to register a save, the team that the closer pitches for has to have an actual lead, and it is far from certain that Martha Coakley has a lead on the Friday before the Tuesday special election.

Give credit to President Obama for taking the risk to campaign for Coakley, in a last-minute attempt to increase voter turnout in a deep blue state. Setting aside for the moment the fact that he is doing it out of self-interest for his legislative agenda, and not because he has any particular affection for the candidate, the downside is rather large for President Obama in the scenario where he cannot change momentum and Coakley loses big; in an election year, with less than 10 months to go until election day, he will be perceived as having zero coattails, and perhaps even slightly radioactive. The upside -- if Coakley wins by a few points -- is simply status quo in the Senate, and possibly less than status quo, in the sense that the damage has already been done by the close call, and Democratic Senators in states that are not as deep blue will see the writing on the wall. It's not a great payoff matrix for the president, other than getting the health care bill passed, which many had already assumed as a given over the past several weeks.

It may be that it is too late to rally the Democratic base in Massachusetts, and that the election has become more about the fact that Scott Brown is an appealing candidate running against an unappealing candidate -- so unappealing that even dependable Democratic voters don't particularly like her:
Coakley’s polling, a Democrat involved in the race said, has shown that certain key Democratic demographics, including less affluent women and African-Americans, don’t support her in the overwhelming numbers Democrats had expected.
Democratic politicians running for the Senate have been in trouble before in Massachusetts -- even Ted Kennedy briefly had a scare when Mitt Romney ran against him in 1994 (September polls had Kennedy a point behind), but he had plenty of time to rally and win comfortably. The schedule is obviously more compressed in this case, and Martha's last name is not Kennedy.

Let's say Brown wins by a margin that is sufficient to preclude any kind of recount, and he is seated relatively quickly. I keep thinking of the last few scenes of those slasher flicks, when the killer has apparently been killed off, but somehow comes back for one more shot. Just because a Senator Brown will vote against cloture for the health care bill, does that rule out the possibility that another Republican vote in the Senate can't be peeled away? For example, except for the coastal areas, Maine is not a particularly affluent state, and could really use a couple of billion more dollars of federal largesse. The price would presumably be higher than Senator Nelson's vote or Senator Landrieu's vote.

10 Comments:

By Blogger JPMcT, at Fri Jan 15, 07:00:00 PM:

Despite the polls, the Democrat defeats in New Jersey and Virginia, the Mass. debacle and Obama's tanking popularity...these arrogant aparatchiks will now go after a reconciliation vote requiring only 51 yays.

Good Lord...what will it take for these guys to actually REPRESENT the republic...an unruly crowd on the Washington mall with torches and pitchforks???

They just might get it!!!  

By Blogger Bomber Girl, at Fri Jan 15, 07:02:00 PM:

Call me naive or whatever you want but is it so wrong to think that once you are president you are the president of all the people, not just the democrats (or just the republicans, in past cases).
OK, don't bother calling me anything. I can figure it out.  

By Anonymous Mr. Ed, at Fri Jan 15, 07:48:00 PM:

Nothing to worry about. Acorn will come through. Just a matter of getting a good estimate of how many additional voters are needed.

M.E.  

By Blogger Charlie Eklund, at Fri Jan 15, 08:23:00 PM:

By my reckoning, rookie pitcher Barack"B.O." Obama's record as a closer already shows two blown saves...Corzine in New Jersey and the Chicago Olympics in Copenhagen. One more high profile blown save and he'll look like trade bait to me.

My favorite part of the fiasco, so far, has been Coakley's assertion that religious freedom is something "the law allows" rather than an inherent right held by all humanity, and recognized as such by the founding documents of our republic.

In other words, we owe our thanks to legislators rather than to the Creator.

Spoken like an true apparatchik.

She may not be elected Senator next week, but she's looking more and more like the favorite for Twit of the Year.  

By Anonymous feeblemind, at Fri Jan 15, 08:31:00 PM:

Welcome back E-81.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Fri Jan 15, 09:05:00 PM:

Thanks, feeblemind. I never really thought about blogging as being theraputic, but it's helpful.

Bomber Girl, I do agree with you about the "president of all of the people," but all presidents are also the de facto heads of their political party, and as such, are exected to help raise money and campaign. This is a bit different from NJ and VA because it is a Senate race and not a gubernatorial race, and the stakes are high, in terms of the legislative agenda.  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Fri Jan 15, 09:27:00 PM:

The phases of Democrat Defeat
1) “The Republican is not a threat, this is a Blue seat.”
2) “The Republican popularity is strictly with the far-right wing wackos, there are not enough of them voting to matter.”
3) “The Repug is close, but we still have tons and tons of slime to use on him, plus calling him names and making up stuff. Have the DNC send over a couple mil and some of their best thugs.”
4) “Behind? We can’t be behind! Dig up the graveyards, start up the ballot printing presses, bring out Acorn, twist arms at the newspapers, lie like a rug!”
5) “Lost? Protest and sue, slip in new ballots, have ballots ‘discovered’, recount, scream discrimination, punch out chads, disqualify military absentee ballots.”
6) “Obviously blame must be laid at the feet of ______ (anybody but me)”

It appears that Coakley is rolling into Phase 4. The fun part will be when she hits Phase 6, and starts to point fingers. (crossposted)  

By Blogger Bomber Girl, at Fri Jan 15, 09:56:00 PM:

Welcome back, Escort81. Yes, I know. I am just annoyed how partisan this whole health care bill is and this just rubs salt in the wound, so to speak.  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Fri Jan 15, 11:27:00 PM:

Curiously, polling showed the Kennedy family endorsement lost Coakley more support than it picked up.

I don't see how an Obama appearance does any better...it sounds like a suicide mission to me.  

By Anonymous davod, at Sat Jan 16, 12:59:00 PM:

The real issue should be will Obama go to a service in Catholic church tomorrow.  

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