Is the Massachusetts special Senate election really that tight? And can Republicans claim some sort of "moral victory" absent a win for the seat vacated by the tragic death of Ted Kennedy (D)? This is a rather peculiar question for a state as reliably Democratic as Massachusetts. It makes us wonder why we're asking it. Democrats - and those leaning to that side - will eagerly call a "win" a "win." You can't cut and sample the results like a DJ nor flex muscle on No. 2. Ultimately, "moral victories" are corruptibly empty, as is the attempt to spin a loss into such. And, seriously, is there anything moral about the political?
But, there is a point in the empty "anti-victory" if you're attempting to flip it into a larger cause or movement. Herein lies the concern with a very blue state like Massachusetts. Republicans have been toying around with anti-establishment rhetoric while attempting to harness wild horses like the Tea Party movement for over a year now.
A single-digits loss by Scott Brown (R) to Martha Coakley (D) further stirs that pot - and can result in national fundraising dividends for Republicans if it's too close for comfort or call. In that sense, it's an internal moment of glory, maybe something to raise a lighter to, but nothing to flame a stogie on.
Dems should be throwing everything they've got into this race. Voters, thanks to the economy, are fickle and angrily unpredictable. Thinking like an insular partisan will get you a rabid bite in the cheeks. Think outside the realm of possibility, the once unthinkable notion that some voters aren't feeling Main Man's executive style or his late focus on jobs in favor of a push on health care.
It comes as no surprise that the President hasn't entertained any plans for a last minute stump for Coakley, which may give an uncomfortable glimpse into the head of your average Bay State voter. Folks on the left should proceed with caution, from the West Wing to the DNC.
We shouldn't even have a conversation about a tight race to fill that seat. Now, we are, and the implications for the 2010 cycle are Godzilla-size if Democrats lose a state famous for its blue-tinged lock. The simple fact we are means Republicans have scored a significant point by virtue of a "what if." It's all psychological, thereby creating the kind of eleventh hour wave effect needed to mobilize that state's skinny right base while Jedi mind tricking frosty independents and Democrats. Still, Republicans should worry that independent candidate Joseph Kennedy's anti-tax tirades may be enough to pull some contrary conservatives, particularly from the middle to the west edge of the state. Not all politics in Massachusetts is Boston, machine party-driven as that state may be. The reason behind Coakley's cunning demand for Kennedy's presence at a recent candidate's debate.
There is now the visualization of a New Jersey or Virginia-style upset, with Brown able to appear as the more "attractive" candidate in contrast to the stale Coakley (Dems should be game to this after hitting fouls on cats like Deeds and Corzine). Reports of Coakley's lack of energy should be cause for alarm.
The other factor is Governor Deval Patrick, the embattled incumbent up for re-election who - last checked - is only a point or two ahead in a three-way matchup. The questions are few within the Beltway about how this plays out for Coakley. Even with an independent in that mix, an unpopular Patrick is barely edging ahead. Democrats should be concerned how the Senate race impacts Patrick's chances and how Patrick's polling could help Brown find lucky charms.