What if Martha Coakley's woes, contrary to DC conventional wisdom, have as little to do with her crummy campaign strategy as with national liberal disaffection? Congressional Quarterly's Bill Pascoe isn't saying those factors aren't important--he does think, though, that those hawking ten-cent explanations are missing something. Here's his explanation: Massachusetts may be Democratic, but it's not as liberal as it seems.
There are two types of Democrats in Massachusetts, argues Pascoe: "the Mike Dukakis Democrat, and the Tip O'Neill Democrat." The difference:
The former is upper crust, elite, intellectual, thinks Sunday was made for watching talking heads on TV, and would think holding the Ryder Cup at The Country Club would be proof that he's died and gone to Heaven, if he believed in Heaven; the latter is blue collar, ethnic, Catholic, thinks Sunday was made for worship, and is scared to try to transfer his old VHS tape of the "Hail Flutie" to DVD, for fear that that new-fangled technology might end up just eating his only tangible memento of the greatest game in Boston sports history.
Even if you don't buy his breakdown, Pascoe's grasp of Bay State details is impressive. He is, for example, rare for remembering that Massachusetts voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primary, not Barack Obama, "despite Obama's having been endorsed by Sen. Edward Kennedy."
Martha Coakley, in other words, may never have been the shoe-in Beltway insiders supposed. It's not enough to be a Democrat or a Bay State native. Though Coakley was born in western Massachusetts, "the last senator to hail from the region was Frederick Gillett, elected in 1924," while "the last Massachusetts governor to hail from western Massachusetts was Foster Furcolo, elected in 1956." Coakley, entirely unintentionally, wound up seeming to disparage Catholic emergency room workers "in a state with eight Catholic hospitals, 16 Catholic nursing facilities, and another 19 Catholic-sponsored health organizations ... with an untold number of nuns who work as nurses." She accidentally alienated Sox fans first with a dig at Fenway and then a misunderstanding regarding former pitcher Curt Schilling. Some commentators say these are signs of a poorly-run campaign, but Pascoe's conclusion is different:
She is as culturally out of step with Massachusetts Democrats as would be a Rockefeller at a Louisiana Fish Fry. Keep that in mind tonight when you watch the bloviators "explain" that it's all about her rotten campaign, or health care, or even a rejection of Obama. This one was baked in the cake the night Coakley won the primary.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.