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To veteran political observers it sounds almost inconceivable: could Massachusetts, through its special election to fill Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat, sink health care reform? A previous poll placing Republican candidate Scott Brown within striking distance of Democratic counterpart Martha Coakley is now being confirmed by more recent numbers, and previous debate over whether a Republican win is even possible is giving way to debate over how likely a win might be, and how Senate Democrats could still pass health care reform without their filibuster-proof 60 votes. The special election is a mere week from Tuesday. Here's the discussion--largely among liberal commentators--of the drama:

  • 'A Losable Race for Democrats,' Pronounces Tom Jensen at Public Policy Polling. "At this point a plurality of those planing to turn out [in the special election] oppose the health care bill ... Martha Coakley needs to have a coherent message up on the air over the last ten days that her election is critical to health care passing and Ted Kennedy's legacy--right now Democrats in the state are not feeling a sense of urgency." He points out, too, that "Scott Brown's favorables are up around 60%."
  • 'Potentially Devastating to Health Care Reform'  The bill passed with 60 votes, says The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn, "but the Senate isn't finished yet. It will have to sign off on the final compromise between its bill and the House's version," again requiring 60 votes. What if Scott Brown wins, replacing temporary appointee Paul Kirk? "In theory," muses Cohn, "the House could simply take the bill that passed the Senate in December and approve it without modification. But that'd be far from optimal: The Senate bill still has a lot of problems."
  • Two Ways to Pass the Bill  "The first is simple, if controversial," writes Politico's Ben Smith: "Get it through between the time the polls close and the new senator is sworn in." Paul Kirk is game, he notes, for voting for the health care bill even if Massachusetts elects Brown. Smith calls the other option--having the House pass the current version of the Senate bill, which Cohn talks about--
    "imaginable," but "a heavy lift on both the left and right of the caucus."
  • Actually, There's a Third Option, writes The New Republic's Jonathan Chait: "go back to Olympia Snowe," the Republican senator who originally looked likely to cross the aisle on health care."
  • Hang On, Here  "Obligatory caveats," points out more conservative Hot Air's Allahpundit: "PPP [Public Policy Polling, with particularly optimistic numbers for Scott Brown] got the NY-23 race wildly wrong and doesn't offer any hard numbers yet to illustrate the trends it's seeing here." Furthermore, he adds,
Bear in mind too that pollsters from both sides of the aisle have an incentive to spin thing Brown's way. His only chance of winning is to have Republican turnout hugely outnumber Democratic turnout; every poll that shows him doing well fuels hope on the right, which motivates GOP voters, and fuels terror on the left, which motivates Dem voters not to be complacent about the likelihood of victory by staying home.
  • Dems Spooked, Either Way  Law professor and political commentator William Jacobson thinks he may have evidence of "push polling," a technique "where under the guise of a poll the questioner tries to push the interviewee for or against a candidate ... If Democrats have started push polling against Brown, that is a sure sign they are worried. And it is a sign that the last 10 days of the campaign will get quite nasty."

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