For everyone who wants to impress their friends with bite-size talking points, I humbly present a cheat seat.
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# Mass. Attorney General Martha Coakley ran a very bad campaign. Spectacularly bad.
-- she took a vacation in the middle of it
-- she attended half as many campaign events as Brown did and denigrated the very idea of campaigning in the cold.
-- her ads began late, and they were negative. Some were absurd.
-- suffered through as a miasma of malapropisms at the end of the campaign. (Curt Schilling is a Yankee fan?)
-- she came off as small, pinched, unsmiling, cold and completely conventional.
# State Senator Scott Brown ran a very good campaign.
-- Him being pro-choice helped with independent women
-- He ran against Congress -- and indeed, against GOPers. He asked them to stay OUT of the race.
-- He ran against Democrats and their agenda
-- He's an attractive (Cosmo nude!), easy-going, easy-to-like regular guy. He employed a symbol -- his pick-up trick -- but also ads showing him shaking him hands and connecting.
-- He has solid governing and military service credentials.
-- His attacks on Coakley's agreeing with Obama on Afghanistan (and by proxy, the trial of GTMO detainees in the US) may have worked.
-- He avoided linking himself to the Tea Party movement (though they embraced him.)
# The economy is really bad.
-- Mass voters have a habit of blaming the party in power for this.
-- They've lost confidence in the ability of Democrats to govern
-- Health reform has been irrecoverably tagged as a mess; there are special complex feelings about it in Massachusetts, which is essentially porting its system to the nation
# Massachusetts is a state that usually votes for Democrats, but not a Blue State per se. It is more independent than Democratic.
-- Blue collar ethnic whites have a tendency to distrust candidates who put on cultural airs. Brown succeeded in defining Coakley as being aloof and out of touch
-- Independents -- suburbanites, exurbanites -- are angry; the anger is diffuse but concentrated at the people in power.
-- Independents are irate at bailouts, the way Wall Street seems to not to be sharing the pain, about government competence, nervous about health care, and channeling it into specific complaints about the debt and deficit.
-- By the way: the state legislature is very unpopular in Mass. and run by Democrats. The governor is unpopular and is a Democrat. Like many other states, Mass. is struggling with enormous budgetary problems; taxes are being raised and spending are being cut.
# National Democrats were complacent; the White House played an inside game all year. That may have been a choice, or it may have been dictated by vents.
-- They managed the economic recovery as if they were Wall Street bankers...not Main Street entrepreneurs.
-- Obama is not a natural populist and resists the instinct to demagogue. When he does, it sounds false.
-- Democrats aren't afraid of the White House; the White House political operation failed to do its job properly.
-- Who runs the Democratic Party? What does it stand for? Cleaning up Bush's mess? Still?
-- Obama owns this loss, even though voters in Massachusetts don't dislike him and didn't vote against him.
Expect to see:
-- Recriminations! Schadenfreude. With all the knives soon to be stabbed in Coakley and Obama's back, now's the time to invest in Williams Sonoma, as contributor D.B. Grady says.
-- More Joe Biden. The natural populist in the White House. HIS aides want to be much more aggressive.
-- A reconfiguration (maybe a shape up) of the White House domestic policy shop
-- An acknowledgment from the White House that they "we" get it
-- Republican presidential candidates and GOPers in Congress say this is a referendum on Obama's agenda. Is it? I don't know.
-- More Democratic retirements. And more Democrats deciding to challenge incumbents. These results will fortify candidates who aren't the White House favorite.
-- A vigorous (even more vigorous) internal debate within the Democratic Party about President Obama's true intentions and principals.
-- An even more vigorous debate among Democrats about how much attention to pay to the debt and deficit; is this what keeps middle class voters up at night?