Several weeks ago, Republican Senatorial candidate Scott Brown was a little known Massachusetts state senator facing an uphill battle in an overwhelmingly Democratic state.
However, with his stunning victory on Jan. 18, Brown has burst onto the national political scene. The impact of his election victory extends beyond the borders of Massachusetts, as Brown has become the crucial 41st Republican in the United States Senate.
Brown was able to secure a victory over the heavily favored Democratic candidate Martha Coakley with 52 percent of the vote. Coakley, Massachusetts’ attorney general, had been expected by political pundits to win the Senate seat, which was held by the late Edward Kennedy for nearly 47 years until his passing in late August.
Leading up to the final weeks of the campaign, Coakley had held demanding leads in numerous polling figures. However, her lead began to steadily decline as the Coakley campaign committed a number of gaffes.
For example, in the final debate among Massachusetts Senate Candidates, Coakley implied that, in essence, Afghanistan was free of terrorists. Brown was quick to criticize this belief, portraying Coakley as misguided on areas of foreign policy.
Coakley’s other slip-up occurred during a local radio talk show interview, when she accidentally confused Curt Schilling, a beloved Boston Red Sox icon and a Brown supporter, for a New York Yankees fan. This misstep badly hurt Coakley as she tried to win over the support of the diehard Bostonian sports fans.
With Coakley not appearing as strong of a candidate as she was earlier in the campaign, the likeable Brown was able to increase his popularity among Massachusetts’ voters. Using the appeal of being a regular guy who drove to his campaign locations in his pickup truck, independent voters began to flock toward Brown.
Despite a last minute visit on the Sunday before Election Day from President Barack Obama, Coakley was unable to motivate her base to the polls. This allowed Brown to gather enough support from independents and moderates to become the first Republican to hold a senate seat in of Massachusetts since 1972.
During his victory speech, Brown addressed his fellow politicians in Washington, particularly the Democrats. He said, “I hope they are paying close attention because tonight the independent voice of Massachusetts has spoken.” The arrival of Brown to the Senate has created a compelling situation as Obama and the Democrats try to make good on top domestic priority of health care reform, and then try to pass climate change legislation.
Brown has already stated that he will not support the current versions of health care reform, and his opposition as the 41st Republican Senator rids the Democrats of their once supermajority of 60 votes. With the inability to enact cloture and end a potential Republican filibuster, Democrats will either have to alter their approach to receive bipartisan support or once again accept the disappointment of not delivering on health care reform.
In addition to the issue of health care, Brown’s victory carries with it a number of further implications. According to CNN, Republican Chairman Michael Steele said, “The message of lower taxes, smaller government, and fiscal responsibility clearly resonated with independent-minded voters in Massachusetts.”
The White House was quick to respond, signaling that it will continue to fight in their pursuit of health care reform, creating more jobs, helping the middle class, and improving the environment.
Speaking with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Obama said, “The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry and frustrated.”
There is no denying the fact that without a supermajority in the Senate and with midterm elections right around the corner, the White House’s task is indeed tougher.
According to Larry Schwab, a political science professor at John Carroll University, “Scott Brown’s victory has a big impact on the Democrats’ agenda and even on the 2010 congressional elections. The victory has energized the Republican Party and base.”