At her Atlantic Correspondents blog, Wendy Kaminer makes the case that Democrats were brought down in Massachusetts Tuesday night by identity politics and blind support for Martha Coakley by Massachusetts' network of female politicians and political insiders.
Coakley's three male adversaries in the Democratic primary were afraid to challenger her, but Scott Brown, unworried about offending those same voters, never fell into the same political trap of chivalry:
So, the only woman in a four-person primary race, Coakley had too easy a ride to the nomination; her three male opponents seemed stymied by fear of attacking her and offending female voters. (As the Boston Globe noted last month, "Throughout the primary, Coakley's three male opponents were wary of appearing too aggressive. Early in the campaign, when US Representative Michael E. Capuano called her "cautious,'' his remarks were called sexist by state Senate president Therese Murray. From that point on, none of Coakley's challengers attacked her with any vigor.")
Scott Brown smartly eschewed chivalry (he had no need to placate Democratic women) and Coakley was apparently unprepared for a race. A career prosecutor, accustomed to choosing her battles and operating in environments in which she exerts considerable control, Coakley seemed incapable of improvising when confronted with an unexpected challenge. She avoided retail campaigning and let Brown dominate the airwaves for the first crucial weeks of the campaign, while he packaged himself, in an excellent series of ads as a likable, guy next door, moderate. When he rose in the polls, she unleashed a series of negative ads that, however unfairly, evoked negative stereotypes of women, as strident, shrill, and hysterical when challenged. Having benefited from identity politics in the primary, she may have been hurt by it in the general.