Normally I wouldn't care much about a special election in a deep-blue state like Massachusetts, but next Tuesday has a chance to be a really interesting day.
As you recall, we were recently relieved of the burden of putting up with Ted Kennedy, and on Tuesday an election will be held to select a replacement. When the primary was held a few weeks ago, the Democrats selected as their candidate the state's Attorney General, Martha Coakley. A state senator named Scott Brown won the Republican primary, and it was generally assumed that Coakley would go on to trounce Brown in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3-to-1.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the election. Coakley turned out to be an awful candidate, and Brown turned out to be kind of an inspiring one. Republicans haven't won a U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts since 1972, and Obama carried the state by 26 points in 2008, but suddenly almost every poll shows this race within the margin of error; A Suffolk University poll released tonight actually shows Brown ahead by four points. The Boston Herald has endorsed Brown.
The battle lines are pretty clear: Coakley is in favor of Obamacare, has called for higher taxes and believes captured terrorists should get civilian trials. Brown opposes Obamacare, favors tax cuts and is okay with military tribunals for terrorists.
The real turning point for Brown came in a debate last week, when the moderator asked Brown about the possibility of Brown becoming a vote against Obamacare from "Teddy Kennedy's seat." Brown quickly responded by saying, "With all due respect, it's not the Kennedy seat, it's not the Democrat's seat, it's the people's seat."
It still seems unlikely to me that Brown can win, because in Massachusetts - as in Minnesota - the Democrats just control too much of the apparatus of elections. There is that massive registration disparity, and if it becomes really close, the same sort of fraud and criminality that "elected" Al Franken in Minnesota will kick in out there as well.
But just the fact that it's close at all tells us this: Even folks in the Peoples Republic of Massachusetts are fed up with everything the Obama administration has come to represent. The inattention to national security. Civilian trials for terrorists. The trillion-dollar "stimulus" that raised the unemployment rate. The secret health care bill negotiations. The mushrooming deficits. Less than a year after taking office, Obama has squandered any "mandate" he might have had, and brought the Republican party back to parity.
When Republicans won governor's races in New Jersey and Virginia about eight weeks ago, the White House tried to spin these as just "local" races that didn't reflect any dissatisfaction with Obama. It wasn't particularly believable then, and it will be less so if they lose on Tuesday.
If they lose Massachusetts they haven't just lost a battle. They've lost the war.