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With the shocking Democratic loss in the Massachusetts special election, much of the focus has been on health care reform--the election as a referendum on it and as its potential killer. But in the hunt to explain the electorate's unhappiness, could the real scapegoat be that inevitable political assassin--the bad economy? Some commentators think so:

  • This Is About Wall Street "There will be two main narratives," begins Miles Mogulescu at The Huffington Post, "explaining the Democrats' loss ... Washington insiders will argue that Obama and the Democrats moved too far too fast with a 'liberal' agenda and must now trim their sails, tack to the corporate center ... Others will argue that Obama and the Democrats have been too cozy with Wall Street and have followed in George W. Bush and Hank Paulson's footsteps to shovel hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars at Wall Street banks and gotten nothing in return as far as lending to create jobs and save homes. I'm going with the second narrative."
  • Political Science 101: Economy and the Incumbent "Of course," recall the editors of The Washington Post, "voters are inclined to blame the incumbent party for the troubled economy, and there's not much Mr. Obama can do about that in the short term." That said, the Post thinks this may be more about "one-party rule," which makes voters "nervous."
  • For Those Not in DC "While those of us who are Washington insiders," writes the Post's Steven Pearlstein, "may be focused on health reform, the country has its mind on lots of other things. First and foremost is a lousy economy that has resulted in lots of lost jobs and lost wealth, a big spike in the federal deficit, and big budget shortfalls for state and local governments." Combined with other factors, he finds it unsurprising that the electorate is "grumpy."
  • Among Dems' Other Poor Ideas "By the way," adds the Post's E.J. Dionne, "whoever sold the White House on claiming that under the stimulus bill unemployment would rise to only 8 percent last year and peak at 9 percent this year should be sent off on a long foreign trip."
  • What the Election Means: Voters Wanted Financial Reform The Politico Playbook team reports Democratic strategist David Axelrod as saying "There have to be rules of the road to protect the economy, to protect everyday people and consumers in the financial system. Anybody who reads the results of this election as anything other than that, and decides it is a good idea to yield to the financial lobby in Washington, is clearly misreading these results."
  • Don't Kid Yourself--Stop Blaming It on the Economy, suggests conservative wild card David Brooks. Writing in his New York Times column, he says that "many Democrats, as always, are caught in their insular liberal information loop. They think the polls are bad simply because the economy is bad." Yet attempting, under this assumption, to pass health care reform in the face of the Senate seat loss "would be the act of a party so arrogant, elitist and contemptuous of popular wisdom that it would not deserve to govern."

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